Rule-of-Law Ethnography

Nick Cheesman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This review outlines an emerging agenda for ethnographic interpretation of the rule of law. From a survey of studies done on the rule of law in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, the review identifies four general characteristics of this mode of inquiry, namely, that it is located, relational, and comparative and has extrinsic value. It offers three nonexhaustive reasons for interpreting the rule of law ethnographically, which are as a counterhegemonic practice, in response to counterintuitive observations, and as a means to do constitutive theorizing. Contending that ethnographic work on the rule of law involves some kind of stance toward both research subjects and object of inquiry, the review advocates for the exercise of passionate humility: a conviction about the rule of law tempered by willingness to be proven wrong through inquiries in critical proximity with socially and politically mediated facts. Rule-of-law ethnography's possibility lies in its attending to the relationship between what is claimed in the rule of law's name and what is realized, not to make the idea look foolish, but to show how it emerges and why it persists through struggle.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-184pp
    JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
    Volume14
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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