Ethnography, Law & Society (CRN #3) at LSA 2019

The Ethnography, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network #3, organized by Kate Henne (University of Waterloo/Australian National University) and Allison Fish (University of Queensland), has sponsored a series of panels, roundtables and events that may be of interest to APLA members attending the Law and Society’s Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. from May 30 – June 2, 2019.

Friday, May 31st, 10:00 AM – 11:45 AM:
Dignity in Turbulent Times: Disputed Questions of Law, Justice, and Rights
2648, Paper Session
Hyatt Room: Congressional B

Ethnographic studies of law and society have become integral to understanding diverse lived realities. This panel features in-depth research that explores how people understand and maintain dignity in a changing world. Considering the challenges of these turbulent political times, our aim is to explore and better understand what, as well as how, dignity comes to mean in everyday life and the various ways people engage with, use, or circumvent law to maintain their dignity. Papers consider how participants negotiate law in the context of human rights, forensic science, specialist courts, and seemingly mundane practices of dispute resolution. Capturing diverse sites and forms of engagement, the papers explore different meanings and tensions that emerge around dignity in legalized contexts.

Participants: Kathryn Henne, Tamara Relis, Amelia Radke, Vivette Garcia-Deister, and Kristin Makai Sangren.

Friday, May 31st, 12:45 PM – 2:30 PM
Community, Family, and Law(s) in the Global South and its Diasporas
1400, Paper Session
Hyatt Room: Regency B

This panel explores the sociolegal construction of family and community relationships in the Global South and its diasporas. Using ethnographic and qualitative methods, the papers examine the different ways laypeople use state, religious, and customary law to define, contest, and give meaning to their relations and obligations. With research on urban and rural China, Kenya, South Africa, and Muslim communities in the U.S., the papers examine many types of legal action: from family struggles over marriage and divorce, to everyday use of religious law, to organized political action. The papers engage core sociolegal questions about legal pluralism, legal consciousness, and legal mobilization, highlighting the importance of Global South and diasporic research for understanding the daily life of law, in all its multiple forms.

Participants: Michael Yarbrough, Sally Engle Merry, Mark Fathi Massoud, Kathleen Moore, Ke Li, Susan Hirsch, and Di Wang.

Friday, May 31st, 12:45 PM – 2:30 PM
Activist Ethnography: Possibilities, Dilemmas, and Praxis
2052, Roundtable Session
Hyatt Room: Regency A Table 10

What is activist or an engaged ethnography, and how might it take shape in practice? What are its promises and limitations? How can we maximize the analytical power of ethnographic research to actively participate in, contribute to, and shape debates on important issues of public concern? This roundtable springs from discussions during the Ethnography, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network’s 2017 business meeting in Toronto to address questions of what engaged and activist ethnographic research might look like in the Law and Society tradition. In doing so, the session brings together a group of experienced ethnographers at different career stages. The session will include ample time for audience questions and discussion and will be of interest for those that are already familiar with and those that are new to ethnography.

Participants: Allison Fish, Scott Cummings, Laura Foster, Luis Daniel Gascon, Allison McKim, and Aaron Roussell.

Friday, May 31st, 6:45 PM – 8:00 PM 
CRN 3 Business Meeting
Hyatt Grand Teton Room

The business meeting features a discussion with Professor Marie-Andree Jacob (University of Leeds) on Academic Hoaxes, Frauds, and Grievance, chaired by Renee Shelby (Georgia Institute of Technology). After the meeting, we are hosting a social at Union Pub until 10:30 PM. Please join us!

Saturday, June 1st, 8:00 AM – 9:45 AM
Dignity and Resistance: Activist and Engaged Perspectives
2650, Paper Session
Hyatt Room: Congressional B

In an increasingly globalized world, ethnographers are engaging and working with activists and advocates to participate in, contribute to, and even shape debates on significant issues of public concern. This track of CRN-sponsored panels seeks to explore different modes of activist or engaged ethnography. What are the roles of different actors in a particular field site? How can researchers maximize the analytical power of ethnographic research? Capturing diverse sites and approaches to activism and engagement, the papers explore different meanings and tensions that emerge around dignity. This panel responds to questions raised at the Ethnography, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network’s 2017 business meeting in Toronto, which sought out examples of ethnographic research that engaged activism and social justice.

Participants: Amelia Radke, Allison Fish, Rine Vieth, Viviane Weitzner, Marlin Mancilla, Jara Carrington, and Amy Kennemore.

Saturday, June 1st, 11:50 AM – 12:35 PM
Navigating Conflict: How Youth Handle Trouble in a High-Poverty School
0208, Author Meets Reader (AMR) Session
Hyatt Room: Congressional B

Calvin Morrill and Michael Musheno’s Navigating Conflict: How Youth Handle Trouble in a High-Poverty School (University of Chicago Press, 2018) creatively brings a socio-legal perspective to bear on youth relational dynamics and safety in public education, an issue of pressing public importance. Based on sixteen years of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research spanning one hundred years, they take readers into a multiethnic and multiracial, high-poverty high school in the U.S. By applying a trouble-process perspective, they challenge the conventional, violent-centered focus in most studies of urban youth conflict, revealing the social ingenuity and resilience with which teens informally and peacefully navigate potentially strife-ridden peer trouble.

Participants: Calvin Morrill, Michael Musheno, Jennifer Carlson, Elizabeth Brown, Steve Herbert, and Torin Monahan.

Saturday, June 1st, 2:45 PM – 4:30 PM
Ethnographies of Law I: Activism, Struggle, Inequality and Crisis
4083, Paper Session
Hyatt Room: Congressional B

This panel is the first in a series dedicated to ethnographies of law. It explores how legality operates in the context of different contemporary challenges, particularly those deemed crises. The papers examine how different actors mobilize law to mobilize against and counter inequalities. Specifically, they illustrate the use of the court as a place of resistance in Cambodia, the location of law within political trials in Russia, management of political rebellion through cycles of mass arrest and arbitrary detention in India, practices of vigilante justice in Bolivia, and the contribution of lead poisoning to urban inequality in the Northeastern United States.

Participants: Jenniffer Olenewa, Matthew McLeskey, Jorge Derpic, Haley Duschinski, and Shrimoyee Ghosh.

Saturday, June 1st, 4:45 PM – 6:30 PM
What’s Law Got to Do With It?
0213, Roundtable Session
Hyatt Room: Regency A Table 3

Anthropological studies of law have moved far beyond the rule-collecting of the early twentieth century and the dispute analysis characteristic of the mid-late twentieth century. Today, those of us interested in “things legal” are much more likely to focus on what is adjacent to law-artifacts, institutions, performativity, learning processes, the paper materials of law, its literal forms-rather than on rules, bodies of rules, and their efficacy in resolving disputes (or lack thereof). But has the pendulum swung too far? Does a contemporary anthropology of law have any space left for the content of rules-rules that matter to the very interlocutors whose artifacts and institutions we seek to study? This roundtable brings together anthropologists with wide-ranging interests to explore the place of law in current legal anthropology.

Participants: Véronique Fortin, Matthew Canfield, Anya Bernstein, Leo Coleman, Deepa Das Acevedo, Meghan L. Morris, and Anna Offit.

Sunday, June 2nd, 10:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Ethnographies of Law II: Spaces of Legal and Bureaucratic Regulation
4084, Paper Session
Hyatt Room: Congressional B

This panel is the second of two dedicated to ethnographies of law. The five papers examine how different “spaces” of law, bureaucracy, and regulation affect the lived experiences of various legal actors and subjects. The first three papers focus specifically on the performative aspects and lived experiences of court actors in different judicial systems through analyses of (1) the justifications put forward to legitimize problem-solving courts in the Midwestern United States, (2) the capacity of ethnography to explore the aesthetic dimensions of the state and law, and (3) reforms in judicial processes in Colombian labour courts. Two other papers focus specifically on the lived experiences of marginalized groups subject to legal and bureaucratic processes in Catalonia and Buenos Aires.

Participants: Krystle Shore, Johanna Romer, Carolina Bejarano Martínez, Leticia Barrera, Pilar Arcidiacono, and Diana Marcela Solano.

Image credit: “Washington DC Metro” by Mark Fischer, cropped for use on this website’s homepage (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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