Institut für Iranistik / Institute of Iranian Studies Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
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State Law and Normative Agency in Colonial Central Asia

ZAS-Seminar 6, Vortrag von Dr. Paolo Sartori (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)
27.01.2011, 14:00
Seminarraum 3 (Erdgeschoß) der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
Wohllebengasse 12-14, 1040 Wien

Abstract. The concept of “legal pluralism” developed within a field – legal anthropology – where law is not viewed in legalistic terms, but primarily as the product of interactions in a social field. In this spirit, John Griffiths warned that the employment of this concept with reference to a colonial legal setting would lead to put emphasis on a “technique of governance” rather than “designating an empirical state of affairs in a society.” In sum, John Griffiths argued that one thing is to invoke legal pluralism to designate a plurality of bodies of law organised by a state, quite another is to talk of legal pluralism to capture the normative agency of communities, which can find expression outside the jurisdiction of the state. If we are to follow this reasoning, we should infer that state’s arrangements, which secure the coexistence of multiple legal systems, lack social significance. Hence, within the framework of state law, an individual or a group of people should be seen as deprived of any normative agency.
The aim of this talk is to show that legal pluralism can refer to “an empirical state of affairs in a society” within a colonial legal setting. By drawing on the case of Russian Central Asia, I shall attempt at showing that state procedural law can be substantially affected by the interrelations between subaltern appellants and the administration of the colony. Focusing on such interrelations allows grasping the moment in which ideals and practices of justice are crafted by means of exchanges, requests and offers. It is by applying such a perspective that, I argue, one can endorse normative agency to the Muslims subjects of colonial Central Asia.

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