This panel builds on socio-legal theories on law and governance in Africa. It is concerned with the way people understand, give meaning to and navigate multiple (co)existing legal and normative orders that set several (overlapping or competing) rules for social, economic and political life.
Africa has experienced a long history of legal change. Central and particularly disruptive instances of such change are colonization and the concomitant importation of laws, as well as the definition of state boundaries, often resulting in complex legal settings where multiple legal and normative orders (co)exist and interact in the governance of social, economic and political relationships. This complexity creates tension, as different frameworks of law and governance overlap and may compete for societal legitimacy. This also means that, in going about their everyday lives, people may choose between multiple norms and authorities while simultaneously being constrained by the social relationships in which they take part. Examples range from the street-level tax man, to a police officer trying to implement norms on gender-based violence, to a man quarrelling with his neighbour over the demarcation of his property. This panel is concerned with the way people understand, give meaning to and act upon legal, quasi-legal and normative orders. Existing scholarship highlights how people may make strategic choices in shopping between different forums. Other authors have equally drawn attention to the importance of the local context, power relationships and the social-economic networks people are engaged in. The aim of this panel is to discuss and build on these ideas. We welcome papers that contribute new case studies as well as papers with a more theoretical focus. We especially encourage academics from within the region of interest to reply.