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Foreword: Law in Sudan. An anthropological perspective


This volume is part of a broad comparative program dealing with the anthropology of law in Muslim contexts. Different countries were surveyed, among them Indonesia, Algeria, and Morocco. Although the theme of property was initially central, the program turned out to also focus on two other issues: legal pluralism and law in Islam. In this short preface, I will concentrate on these three themes. * Faced with the problems arising from attempts at defining law and from the static approach of the norm, some authors promoted a method founded on practical case studies and the processes of conflict resolution (court room studies). The study of problematic cases has been the focus of American legal realism: how law is practiced, informed by a certain mode of behaviour (behaviourism). Another trend attempted to show how the parties in a litigation conceive the norms and negotiate them during the conflict, how the norms are stated and applied and also neglected or violated. It is therefore the conflict itself which became the focus of attention. These perspectives are fruitful, but do not necessarily constitute the dominant paradigm today, as the theories of legal pluralism currently prevail. Here, the centrality of state law is seen as an ideology. In its most radical formulation, the plurality of laws is considered as the result of the ever-increasing gulf between legal practices and textual legal provisions. In our view, however, the plurality of practices is not an expression of legal pluralism. 1 We actually contend that we must adopt a much more praxeological look at legal phenomena. If we closely examine the fine details of cases, and especially the ways in which people orient to the supposedly many laws and norms, we get a much better picture of what law is and is not for these people. We also get a much better understanding of its plural sources and the non-1 As an introductory reading on legal pluralism, see Dupret et al. 1999.
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hal-01844322 , version 1 (19-07-2018)


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Baudouin Dupret. Foreword: Law in Sudan. An anthropological perspective. Anthropology of Law in Muslim Sudan: Land, Courts and the Plurality of Practices (B. Casciarri and M. Babiker, eds, Leiden, E.J. Brill, 2018), 2018. ⟨hal-01844322⟩
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