Research Handbook on Modern Legal Realism
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Research Handbook on Modern Legal Realism

Edited by Shauhin Talesh, Elizabeth Mertz and Heinz Klug

This insightful Research Handbook provides a definitive overview of the New Legal Realism (NLR) movement, reaching beyond historical and national boundaries to form new conversations. Drawing on deep roots within the law-and-society tradition, it demonstrates the powerful virtues of new legal realist research and its attention to the challenges of translation between social science and law. It explores an impressive range of contemporary issues including immigration, policing, globalization, legal education, and access to justice, concluding with and examination of how different social science disciplines intersect with NLR.
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Chapter 25: Anthropology

Riaz Tejani


Anthropology, the study of human culture through fieldwork, has long had a special relationship with American Legal Realism. In almost any way we conceive of realism, the discipline of anthropology contributes valuable insight because, most generally, it maintains a close correspondence between abstract thought and observable practice. In this brief essay, I describe the key ideas of American, Anglo and European sociocultural anthropology with a particular focus upon studies of law and legality. I then turn to the main practice of anthropology, ethnography, in order to explore how disciplinary ideas have been developed and reconsidered operationally through systematic “encounters” with legal actors. I conclude the chapter by revisiting the debates in American Legal Realism, both classic and new, to argue that Anthropology remains an indispensible framework and method for understanding “law in action” today.

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