The Role of Language and Class in Legal Identity Formations

Session Title: The Role of Language and Class in Legal Identity Formations

Co-organizers: Nathan Madson and Jessica López-Espino (New York University)

Our proposed panel for the 2018 AAA Annual Meeting is focused on the role of language and class in shaping the resistance, resilience, and adaptation of actors within legal systems. We are particularly interested in exploring the ways in which class and linguistic practices shape legal identities from expatriate communities (Beaverstock 2002, 2011; Hindman 2013; Fechter 2007; Ong 2007), migrant and working-class litigants in bilingual and heritage language settings (Coutin 2000; Ng 2009; Richland 2008), and other transnational and multilingual actors in local and international legal settings. Class and language use can dictate how individuals are recognized and move through legal systems (Conley and O’Barr 1990; Merry 1990; Phillips 1998). From a more macroscopic perspective, which classes and/or linguistic groups enact law? How do these limited voices use law to reify, disrupt, or reshape inequalities that result from class and language differences? How do race and ethnicity intersect, run parallel to, or contradict class and language use in legal settings? Finally, who are the gatekeepers of law and how do their own classed and linguistic identities restrict or open access to others?

We invite papers that discuss the intersection of language and class in the experience of the law and legal institutions. This panel is open to linguistic and sociocultural anthropologists, but will be submitted under the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology. All papers must address the three main foci of the panel: language, class, and law.

Please send your proposed abstract (max 250 words), along with affiliation, current status, and contact information to Nathan Madson ( and Jessica Lopez-Espino ( by March 26, 2018 3PM EST.

Accepted panel presenters will be required to be paid Annual Meeting registrants (by April 16 at 3 pm EST) AND have AAA memberships active through November 18. Anthropologists outside of the U.S. or Canada, or non-anthropologists, may request a Membership Exemption, but meeting registration is still required. Membership exemptions must be requested by Thursday, March 29. For financial assistance with registration, please complete the Program Chair Waiver application prior to Thursday, March 29. The completion of an application does not guarantee a waiver will be awarded.