Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Anne Griffiths

(Former employee or visitor)

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes


Anne Grifiths is Professor of Anthropology of Law at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh. Her research research focuses on anthropology of law, comparative and family law, African law, gender, culture and rights. It explores the study of law through an anthropological perspective based on ethnographically grounded in-depth field studies. This perspective highlights people’s understandings, experiences and use of law in everyday life in order to focus on their perspectives on law. It has examined the gendered dimensions of women’s lives over a thirty year period, and has also explored children, young people, and families experiences and perceptions of legal proceedings in Scotland and the USA, in the context of children in need of supervision or care.

Her approach provides a counterpoint to textual and doctrinal analyses of law promoted by formal models and challenges conventional legal theory by extending the scope of what constitutes a legitimate focus for legal inquiry. By drawing together the threads of ‘public’ and ‘private’ dimensions of social life my scholarship has not only contributed to feminist scholarship on law but also to broader debates in the social sciences concerning the relationship between power, law, and discourse. It highlights the importance of law in an interdisciplinary context that has an impact on transnational issues, such as human rights. It contributes to debates on globalisation and access to justice, that seek to reappraise the relationship between international, regional, national and local arenas, and the effects of plural legal orders both within and across these domains.

Her major publications include In the Shadow of Marriage: Gender and Justice in an African Community published in 1997; Mobile People, Mobile Law: Expanding Legal Relations in a Contracting World (2005), Spatializing Law: An Anthropological Geography of Law in Society (2009) and The Power of Law in a Transnational World: Anthropological Enquiries, (all three co-edited with Franz and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann); From Transnational Relations to Transnational Law: Northern European Laws at the Crossroads (2011, co-edited with A. Hellum and S.S. Ali); Family Law (Scotland) (4th edition 2015, co-authored with J. Fotheringham and F. McCarthy); Subjectivity, Citizenship and Belonging in Law: Identities and Intersections(2017) co-edited with s. Mustassari and A, M. Petaja-Leinonen.

Anne has held visiting appointments at various institutions including distinguished visiting professor at the faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Senior Research Fellow at the International Research Centre on Work and the Human Lifecycle in Global History (IKG), Humboldt University, Berlin, Visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany, International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Oñati – Gipuzkoa, Spain, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Law, the Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women’s Law at the University of Zimbabwe and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. She has also has held major research grants from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (USA), Annenberg Foundation (USA) and the ESRC, among other bodies, and has undertaken consultancy work for various organisations including the British Council and NORAD (the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) and the Danish Institute for Human rights. She has also been past President of the Commission on Folk Law and Legal Pluralism, a branch of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences and continues to serve on the Executive Body of the Commission.

Research Interests

Her current research focus is on access to and control over land in southern Africa and how this plays out in the global domain, as well as on reducing poverty through potting as a means to security, enhancing women’s livelihoods in Botswana. It is enhanced by teaching co-teaching the module on the Anthropology and Sociology of Law and Development and the fieldwork skills module on the newly established European Doctorate in Law and Development (EDOLAD, 2015) which represents a new PhD programme that involves a consortium of universities including Edinburgh (Scotland), Tilburg (Netherlands), Oslo (Norway), Duesto (Spain), Tartu (Estonia) and Northwest University (South Africa). 


Research outputs

  1. Making pots in Manaledi: People, material, history

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Land, space and place: Perspectives from Botswana

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

View all (71) »

Research activities & awards

  1. EDOLAD: Launching the European Joint Doctorate in Law and Development

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

  2. Workshop for European Doctorate in Law and Development (EDOLAD)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

  3. 17th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Science

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

View all (14) »

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