Accepted paper:

Legal mobilisation, legal scepticism and the politics of public sector unions in Botswana

Authors:

Pnina Werbner (Keele University)

Paper short abstract:

My paper addresses the debate about the effectiveness of the law and of court judgements in the face of brute politics. I argue that sceptical legal anthropologists have failed to recognise that court trials are part of a wider social mobilisation and campaigns for social justice

Paper long abstract:

My paper, drawn from my book The Making of an African Working Class (Pluto Press 2014), addresses the debate about the effectiveness of the law and of court judgements in the face of brute politics. Botswana is a small country, but it raises issues of wider significance for legal and political anthropology. I argue that sceptical legal anthropologists have failed to recognise that court trials are part of a wider social mobilisation and campaigns for social justice (on the USA seeMcCann 1994; Snarr 2011). Legal mobilisation during the public sector strike in Botswana in 2011 was, the paper argues, only one strategic part of a more comprehensive campaign to call on government to pay its workers a living wage. The paper calls for anthropology to re-examine some of its assumptions about the role of the law in postcolonial nations. Despite the possibility that judges may be biased or vulnerable to political influence, and despite the courts' restricted ability to implement their judgements - it is nevertheless the case that ethics, morality and the law, when mobilised alongside concerted political and civic activism, play a critical role in advancing the cause of citizens' rights against an apparently all-powerful government.

panel P049
Small places, large issues: thinking through anthropological conundrums