Life at a Tangent to Law

Regulations, ‘Mistakes’ and Personhood amongst Kigali’s Motari

in Journal of Legal Anthropology
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This article concerns the relationship between motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali and the legal frameworks that govern their business. While motorcyclists commonly subvert legal processes, or avoid complying with regulations, this should not be understood in terms of their ‘resistance’ to legal orders. To do so would imply that laws are imposed on their social lives from without; however, I show how illegalities help to structure social life by creating ‘mistakes’ that are the basis of social relations. I argue that motorcyclists do not confront legal orders in the idiom of resistance, but neither are they determined or shaped directly by legality. Rather, partially formed by breaches of rules, law is integral to their lives, shaping them indirectly or tangentially, according to the relationships and connections ‘mistakes’ with respect to law enable. Law regulates life not by encoding its rules, but by allowing certain kinds of relationships to form.