Legal anthropology

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
This course is aimed at providing students with the conceptual and methodological tools of anthropology of law, in order to develop the skills to critically analyze from a non-dogmatic perspective the complex relationship between law and culture. Special attention will be paid to the complexity and changes in the world of law related to cultural diversity, to legal pluralism, and to the different ways of understanding law and rights, especially with regard to the European context.
Expected learning outcomes
- the knowledge of the fundamental concepts and the research methods of legal anthropology;
- the ability to apply the skills acquired during this course to the analysis of legal phenomena;
- the ability to critically and autonomously interpret legal phenomena in an anthropological way (rather than in legal-dogmatic way);
- the ability to use the acquired knowledge with argumentative consistency and an adequate command of the legal-anthropological technical terminology;
- the ability to undertake, in the most possible autonomous way, in-depth studies concerning the relations between law and cultural diversity by making use of a method that should combine theoretical reflection and critical observation.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
The course aims to introduce students to the anthropological study of law, analysing both the main theories and fundamental concepts, as well as some fields of research.
- Culture and law
- Anthropologists and jurists at the origin of legal anthropology
- Anthropology, colonization and legal acculturation
- Anthropology and the definition of law
- Legal pluralism: concept, theories and fields of research
- Anthropology and human rights: from the 1947 Statement of Human Rights to the 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights
- The contribution of non-western traditions and countries to human rights law
- Multicultural society, normative pluralism and rights
- The role of legal professionals in multicultural societies
Prerequisites for admission
No preliminary knowledge is required.
Teaching methods
Lectures, class discussion, in-depth seminars with participation of experts. Power point slides will be loaded on the Ariel platform.
Teaching Resources
Attending students:
- L. Mancini, Introduzione all'antropologia giuridica, G. Giappichelli Editore, Torino 2015 (e-book at
- Notes, material provided during the course.

Non-attending students:
The course material includes an introductory volume to legal anthropology and some writings that deepen some theories and issues of the volume, i.e. the theory of E.A. Hoebel, one of the founders of modern legal anthropology; the concept of legal acculturation and its effects in the African context; the relationship between rights and cultures; the concept of cultural defense and its application in contemporary societies:
- L. Mancini, Introduzione all'antropologia giuridica, G. Giappichelli Editore, Torino 2015 (e-book:
The following essays (available on the Ariel platform):
- A.E. Hoebel, "Il fondamento culturale del diritto", "Concetti giuridici fondamentali nella loro applicazione allo studio del diritto primitivo", in A.E. Hoebel, Il diritto nelle società primitive. Uno studio comparato sulla dinamica dei fenomeni giuridici, Il Mulino, Bologna 1973 (47 pp.);
- N. Rouland, "L'acculturazione giuridica", in N. Rouland, Antropologia giuridica, Giuffrè, Milano 1992 (45 pp.);
- S. Engle Merry, "Le norme per la protezione dei diritti umani e la demonizzazione della cultura (passando per l'antropologia)", in Diritti e culture. Un'antologia critica, a cura di R. Cammarata, L. Mancini, P. Tincani, Giappichelli, Torino 2014 (19 pp.);
- A. Dundes Renteln, "Cultural defense. Il paradigma monoculturale messo in discussione", in Diritto, traduzioni, tradizioni. La tutela dei diritti nelle società multiculturali, a cura di T. Mazzarese, G. Giappichelli, Torino 2013 (30 pp.).

Erasmus Students: Specific material may be provided if required.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Attending students: The final evaluation will take into account both the active participation during the course and the final exam that, at the student's choice, may be written or oral. The requirement to be considered as attending students is taking part to at least 70% of class meetings (maximum score: 30\30 cum laude).
Non-attending students: Student performance will be assessed through a final oral exam (maximum score: 30\30 cum laude).
The evaluation criteria will consider the knowledge of the fundamental issues of the legal anthropology, the skills of critical analysis and the clarity of exposition.
IUS/20 - PHILOSOPHY OF LAW - University credits: 6
Lessons: 42 hours
Professor: Mancini Letizia
In the first semester, the reception will take place in person or on MTeams ( syd99y3) on Tuesdays at 10, by appointment via email:
Dipartimento 'Cesare Beccaria', MTeams