Folk models and the law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article considers the relationships between the disciplines of law and anthropology, as portrayed in the work and embodied in the life of Franz von Benda-Beckmann. Starting with an assessment of the Bohannan–Gluckman debate over the relevance of Western legal categories for understanding non-Western (‘folk’) legal systems, it shows how the work of von Benda-Beckmann transcends this dispute by concerning itself with the relations between such different legal systems, that is, with legal pluralism as that notion was gradually refined through the work of Franz himself and others. ‘Western’ legal systems and their distinctive modes of reasoning and understanding, too, are proper objects for anthropological analysis and concern, not only the ‘folk’ systems on which anthropologists initially focused. And as von Benda-Beckmann argued, the approaches in both contexts should be the same; above all, legal anthropologists must avoid the ‘expertise-trap’ of deferring to academic lawyers when it comes to understanding how formal state law works.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-437
JournalJournal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • folk models
  • legal anthropology
  • legal reasoning
  • pedagogy


Dive into the research topics of 'Folk models and the law'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this