Law in the Caucasus: anthropological perspectives on legal practice

Stephane Voell (Philipps-Universität Marburg)
Lavrenti Janiashvili (Iv. Javakhishvili Institute of History and Ethnology)
John Hume Lecture Theatre 6
Start time:
27 August, 2010 at 11:30
Session slots:


One of the ideas discussed by Bruce Grant and Lale Yalçın-Heckman in "Caucasus Paradigms" (2007) is the cultural, linguistic, religious, political and economic pluralisms in the region. In these pluralisms one important aspect is missing, namely the multitude of legal conceptions that exist in the Caucasus. In numerous mountainous regions, traditional law is practiced and sometimes even staged as an intrinsic part of local identity. State law reacts differently to it and is itself often changing and at times used quite arbitrary. State law may also be confronted by legal residues of Soviet times. In some places, where the state is not present or weak, new informal legal structures may emerge and play an important role in daily life. Transnational actors or non-governmental organisations may enforce with their financial of political power their own procedures (project law) and change local laws. In some regions of the Caucasus, religious groups impose their own conceptions of legal order or try to do so. In the workshop a decidedly anthropological perspective on law will be presented. The focus will be on empirical research on contemporary or historic legal practice. Studying legal texts is only one side of the medal; the other is examining law in practice, e.g. the enumerated rules and processes provided in interviews have to be confronted with how law is used. The workshop is about law in practice in the Caucasus as it is affected by power relations, cliental networks, ethnicity, religion or transnational influences.