AN479      Half Unit
Anthropology of Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Imani Strong and Dr Andrea Pia


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Anthropology, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course will be particularly useful for anthropology students who are interested in political/legal issues and political economy perspectives in anthropology. It will also be interesting to law students with an interest in socio-legal, critical, criminological and anthropological approaches to the study of law, and to students from other departments who wish to learn about these topics. The course is an independent half unit which complements the Anthropology of Politics half unit.

Course content

The aim of this course is to introduce students to major developments and debates in legal anthropology across time and space. The course is divided into three parts. The first part introduces students to the origins and early developments of the discipline. Students will learn about how legal anthropology arose through an encounter with colonialism, its post-colonial critics. and the legacy these debates have left on the sub-discipline today. The second part moves on to core debates in contemporary legal anthropology, about topics such as human rights, citizenship and violence and law. The third part deals with the limits of the law and its relationship to other social, economic and political domains. Topics include the migrant crisis, the criminalisation of poverty, and indigenous peoples’ struggles over cultural recognition.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

The course will be taught through a combination of weekly lectures and seminars. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures, in-person seminars, and interactive activities. The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Some useful background/overview readings include:

Roberts, Simon. 2013. Order and Dispute: An Introduction to Legal Anthropology. New York: Penguin

Fuller, CJ. 1994. Legal Anthropology, Legal Pluralism and Legal Thought. Anthropology Today 10(3): 9-12

Just, Peter. 1992. History, Power, Ideology and Culture: Current Directions in the Anthropology of Law. Law and Society Review 26(2): 373-412

Moore, S.F. 2001. Certainties Undone: Fifty Turbulent Years of Legal Anthropology, 1949 – 1999. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 7(1): 95 – 116

Snyder, Francis. 1993. Law and Anthropology: A Review. Florence: European University Institute. Working Papers in Law 93(4)

The following edited collections are useful:

Moore, Sally Falk 2005. Law and Anthropology: A reader. Malden: MA Blackwell

Mundy, Martha 2002. Law and Anthropology. Aldershot: UK Ashgate.

Starr, June and June F. Collier. 1989. History and Power in the Study of Law: New Directions in Legal Anthropology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Lazarus-Black, M. and Susan Hirsch. 1994. Contested States: Law, Hegemony and Resistance. After the Law. New York and London: Routledge.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2020/21: 26

Average class size 2020/21: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills