2015 Virtual Edition: Promise and Pathos of Law

PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review’s 2015 virtual edition offers an anthropological take on the Law and Society Association (LSA) annual meeting theme: Law’s Promise and Law’s Pathos in the Global North and Global South. The LSA conference explores the following questions: What has law accomplished in the Global North and Global South? What are the tradeoffs and consequences of its pursuits? The eight articles and complementary postscripts that comprise the virtual edition provide important and ethnographically informed insight into the tensions that emerge through and around legal interventions. In bringing together case studies from across the globe, the issue provides analyses of historical, contextual, and contemporary relations of power that inform the different formations of law and politics studied in each article.

Featured Articles and Postscripts

photo-a-choro-residents-watching-check-signing-2006-165x1651The Peril and Promise of Noodles and Beer: Condemnation of Patronage and Hybrid Political Frameworks in ‘Post-Neoliberal’ Cochabamba, Bolivia
Miriam Shakow in Volume 34 Issue 2. November 2011

This article analyzes public condemnations of patronage—or the buying of political support with jobs or favors—in Bolivia over the past decade, in light of a rising leftist-indigenous political movement and the promises of the Morales government to root out such patronage. [Read Shakow’s Postscript]

Algerian_war_collage_wikipedia-165x165.jpgCitizenship in the Colony: Naturalization Law and Legal Assimilation in 19th Century Algeria
Andrea L. Smith in Volume 19 Issue 1. May 1996

Through a comparison of codes targeting three distinct populations, this article examines how the French developed citizenship and naturalization codes for colonial Algeria, as a way to “manage” the social and legal diversity of French Algeria in ways that reinforced the colonial order. [Read Smith’s Postscript]

tankers-165x165.pngHuman Rights Law and Military Aid Delivery: A Case Study of the Leahy Law
Winifred Tate in Volume 34 Issue 2. November 2011

This article examines the implementation of the Leahy Law—passed by the Congress in 1997 to prohibit U.S. military assistance to foreign military units accused of human rights abuses—in the context of Colombia, revealing how political violence is understood and applied within the U.S. policymaking process. [Read Tate’s Postscript]

800px-Young_Bald_Eagle_5534395801-165x165.jpgWhitewashing Indigenous Oklahoma and Chicano Arizona: 21st‐Century Legal Mechanisms of Settlement
Jean Dennison in Volume 37 Issue 1. May 2014

This article examines tactics employed by settler colonial legal systems in establishing authority over lands by comparing an Osage Nation court case with Arizona House Bill 2281 (Ariz. Rev. Stats. § 15–112), which has been used to ban Mexican American/Raza Studies from the classroom. [Read Dennison’s Postscript]

IMG_0785-165x165.jpgDisabling Corporate Sovereignty in a Transnational Lawsuit
Suzana Sawyer in Volume 29 Issue 1. May 2006

This article examines a lawsuit against Chevron-Texaco filed on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorians for contamination in the country’s Amazonian region. It evaluates “corporate sovereignty” as an ambivalent legal and ethical concept that can work to defend the multinational corporation’s case, but can also reinforce the claims of the plaintiffs seeking retribution for environmental damage. [Read Sawyer’s Postscript]

Whanganui_River_-_New_Zealand-165x165.jpgSovereignty in Postcolonial Aotearoa New Zealand: Ambiguities, Paradoxes, and Possibilities
Jonathan Barrett and Luke Strongman in Volume 36 Issue 2. November 2013

This article examines the Treaty of Waitangi, concluded between many Māori chiefs and the British Crown in 1840, in defining and establishing particular notions of “sovereignty” in Aotearoa New Zealand. It destabilizes and remystifies the positivist conception of Crown (state) sovereignty rather than establishing illusory certainties about sovereignty in Aotearoa New Zealand. [Read Barrett and Strongman’s Postscript]

Unknown-2-165x165.jpgOf Heroes and Polemics: ‘The Policeman’ in Urban Ethnography
Kevin Karpiak in Volume 33 Issue S1. May 2010

This article tracks the theme of urban alienation through both detective fiction and urban ethnography, demonstrating that these literatures share a focus on two key figures: the Hero and the Policeman. It suggests that they offer a space with a potential for reconceptualizing anthropology’s ethical stakes vis-à-vis questions of power and violence in the contemporary world. [Read Karpiak’s Postscript]

450px-Supreme_Court_of_Iran_Entrance-165x165.jpgWhen Blood Has Spilled: Gender, Honor, and Compensation in Iranian Criminal Sanctioning
Arzoo Osanloo in Volume 35 Issue 2. November 2012

This article explores implications of retributive punishment in Iran’s criminal justice system, particularly in legal cases where victims’ families forgive an offender through forbearance of their right of retribution and by receiving compensation from the defendant. This article finds women play key roles in family decisions, revealing complexities of gender relations in legal processes. [Read Osanloo’s Postscript]