Journal of Legal Anthropology

Narmala Halstead, University of Sussex

Subjects: Anthropology, Law

Latest Issue Table of Contents

Volume 7 (2023): Issue 2 (Dec 2023): Special Issue: Pop music production and regulation online in select African countries and Brazil. Guest Editors: Alexander Peukert and Ute Röschenthaler

Volume  8  / 2024, 2 issues per volume

Aims & Scope

The Journal of Legal Anthropology (JLA) is a peer-reviewed journal committed to anthropological understandings of socio-legal and cultural encounters. The journal develops ethnographic and theoretical approaches to a wide range of issues that reveal the significance and presence of legal phenomena in everyday life.

Articles, review essays, and book reviews published in the JLA emphasize innovative work and data-led analysis across a range of socio-political and socio-cultural legal contexts. The journal also considers, in broad terms, how the legal may enter into social constructions of persons and how the 'legal' might change meaning in terms of particular 'everyday' interpretations. Together with the journal's forum section, the JLA draws on cross-disciplinary exchanges to demonstrate how anthropology can effectively contribute to the current debates on contemporary socio-legal and related issues.


The Journal of Legal Anthropology is indexed/abstracted in:

  • Bibliometric Research Indicator List (BFI)
  • European Reference Index for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (ERIH PLUS)
  • Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers

Narmala Halstead, University of Sussex, UK

Associate Editor
Will Rollason, Brunel University London, UK

Reviews Editor
Martyn Wemyss, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

Editorial Board
Susan Coutin, University of California, Irvine, USA
Jane Cowan, University of Sussex, UK
Eve Darian-Smith, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, Ghent University, Belgium
Peter Fitzpatrick , Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
Mark Goodale, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Eric Hirsch, Brunel University, UK
Heather Horst, Western Sydney University, Australia
Tobias Kelly, Edinburgh University, UK
Insa Koch, University of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
Mindie Lazarus-Black, Temple University, USA
Bill Maurer, University of California, Irvine, USA
Sally Engle Merry New York University, USA
Nayanika Mookherjee, Durham University, UK
Martha Mundy, London School of Economics, UK
Yael Navaro, University of Cambridge, UK
Arzoo Osanloo, University of Washington, USA
Maja Petrovic-Steger, University of Cambridge, USA
Darshan Ramdhani, Caribbean Law Online, Grenada
Nigel Rapport, University of St Andrews, UK
Adam Reed, University of St Andrews, UK
Jaro Stacul, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Richard A. Wilson, University of Connecticut, USA

Manuscript Submission

Please review the submission and style guide carefully before submitting.

The editors welcome contributions for publication, both articles of general interest and ones related to theme issues. Articles should be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word.

The Journal of Legal Anthropology is a refereed journal. We will consider original articles which are not under simultaneous consideration elsewhere and which have not been previously published. Submitted articles are read by internal and external referees.

Narmala Halstead, University of East London

Associate Editors:
Insa Koch, London School of Economics
Geoffrey Hughes, University of Exeter, UK

Please contact the editors at

*Please note that authors should retain one copy for themselves, as submissions cannot be returned.


Books for reviews, review articles and book reviews should be sent to:

Martyn Wemyss
Department of Anthropology
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross, London, UK SE14 6NW

Articles should be typed double-spaced throughout (including notes and bibliography). Notes should be endnotes. We will consider articles between 9,000 to 10,000 words, excluding notes and bibliography. We will also consider shorter essays between 4,000 to 5,000 words, excluding notes and bibliography. We also invite lead submissions for our Forum section, which may incorporate research and debate/reflect on a key issue or issues. Articles should be submitted electronically and must include an abstract (100 to 150 words), six to eight key words and three to five lines of biographical information. Book reviews may be between 800 and 1000 words. Book review essays of two or more books may be between 1,500 to 2,000 words.

License Agreement

As part of the Berghahn Open Anthro initiative, articles in Journal of Legal Anthropology are published open access under a Creative Commons license.

Authors must visit our License Options page to select and download their preferred license agreement. Completed and signed forms should be sent to

Ethics Statement

Authors published in the Journal of Legal Anthropology (JLA) certify that their works are original and their own. The editors certify that all materials, with the possible exception of editorial introductions, book reviews, and some types of commentary, have been subjected to double-blind peer review by qualified scholars in the field. While the publishers and the editorial board make every effort to see that no inaccurate or misleading data, opinions, or statements appear in this journal, they wish to make clear that the data and opinions appearing in the articles herein are the sole responsibility of the contributor concerned. For a more detailed explanation concerning these qualifications and responsibilities, please see the complete JLA Ethics Statement.

Annual Subscriptions

Volume 8/2024, 2 issues p.a. 
ISSN 1758-9576 (Print) • ISSN 1758-9584 (Online)
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Journal of Legal Anthropology is a part of the Berghahn Open Anthro subscribe-to-open initiative. Launched in 2020, BOA-S2O has successfully converted a collection of 16 anthropology journals to full Open Access using S2O as its equitable and sustainable model of choice.

Living with Uncertainty

Indefinite Immigration Detention

Immigration detention is a central tenet of the British government’s response to immigration but remains under-theorised in academia. This article uses testimonies drawn from anthropological research conducted with detainees at an Immigration Removal Centre to examine lived experiences of immigration detention and explore the relationships between detainees and the British state. It suggests that despite being a space of extreme control (both in terms of legislation and daily practice), immigration detention is beset with uncertainty and confusion. Examples are given of chronic instability in relation to mobility, violent ‘incidents’, time frames and access to information. The article examines the repercussions of such instability on individuals and coping strategies employed. It argues that immigration detainees live in a context of continual crisis, in which profound uncertainty becomes normalised. This disorder should be understood as a technique of power, with governance through uncertainty constructing certain immigrants as expendable, transient and ultimately, deportable.

Files Circulation and the Forms of Legal Experts

Agency and Personhood in the Argentine Supreme Court


A common assumption in Western legal cultures is that judicial law-making is materialised in practices that resemble the operation of a professional bureaucracy, practices that are also central to the construction of knowledge in other systems, such as accounting, audit, science, and even ethnography (Dauber 1995; Strathern 2000; Riles 2000, 2004, 2006; Maurer 2002; Yngvesson and Coutin 2006). This argument situates the judiciary as a formalistic organization that builds its ambition of universality on the procurement and dissemination of knowledge on a rational basis. Drawing on ethnographic research in the Argentine Supreme Court, this paper seeks to unpack this assumption through a detailed look at how the figures of legal bureaucrats, in particular law clerks, become visible through the documentary practices they perform within the judicial apparatus. As these practices unfold, they render visible these subjects in different forms, though not always accessible to outsiders. Persons are displayed through a bureaucratic circuit of files that simultaneously furthers and denies human agency while reinforcing the division of labour within the institution. This dynamic, I argue, can be understood in light of Marilyn Strathern’s (1988) insights about the forms of objectification and personification that operate in two “ethnographically conceived” social domains (Pottage 2001:113): a Euro-American commodity-driven economy, and Melanesia’s economy based on gift-exchange.

Populist Transparency

The Documentation of Reality in Rural Paraguay

This article is an ethnographic account of the politics of transparency in Paraguay that focuses on the circulation of a particular binder full of photocopies from the land registry during Paraguay’s embattled “transition to democracy.” The concept of transparency posits a representational relationship between documents and reality – i.e. governments are transparent to the extent that they generate faithful and accessible documentary representations of their activities. The article suggests that the difficulty of creating a critical analysis of transparency has less to do with representations than with contention over what counts as reality. The Paraguayan case suggests that we might benefit from rethinking transparency through the logic of populism, in which reality is itself created in the relationship between leaders and their followers.

Capitalism, Violence and The State

Crime, Corruption and Entrepreneurship in an Indian Company Town


In the Tata company town of Jamshedpur, incisive popular discourses of corruption posit a mutually beneficial relationship between ‘legitimate’ institutions and organised criminality, a dynamic believed to enable pervasive transformations in the city’s industrial and financial infrastructures. This article situates this local discourse within the wider body of anthropological work on South Asian corruption, noting a discursive departure from the hegemonic, personalised and essentially provincialising corruption models encountered by many researchers. The article interrogates the popular model of crime and corruption in Jamshedpur through a focus upon the business practices of local violent entrepreneurs, exploring the extent to which their negotiations with corrupt institutions and ‘legitimate’ capital may indeed inform their successes. Drawing analytic cues from material on organised crime in the former USSR, this article identifies a mutually beneficial relationship between political influence, violence and industrial capital in an Indian company town.

Thinking through Surrogacy Legislation in India

Reflections on Relational Consent and the Rights of Infertile Women


As its main focus the article is concerned with explaining the proposed Indian Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill 2010 (2008), and in particular discusses some of its limitations using a relational conception of consent and autonomy. It is argued that two major limitations arise from, firstly, the way the Bill attempts to introduce ‘universal’ notions of informed consent into a cultural context of socially determined decisionmaking, resulting in the failure to safeguard the welfare of Indian surrogates. A second limitation is that the proposed law entitles only some poor women (surrogates) in India to realise access to quality medical healthcare services compared to others (poor, infertile women). Given the significant class and gender based inequalities which frame reproductive healthcare service delivery in the country, legally guaranteed access to health services for surrogates becomes a privilege where the rights of some individuals and couples to reproduce and exercise procreative agency is valued and not others. The article argues that the Bill must give due consideration to the complex, relational and highly stratified contexts in which women undertake childbearing in India to understand why legally comprehensive consent procedures can co-exist with violations of personhood in practice. Without such consideration the article suggests that injustice toward infertile women can become part of the same legal process wherein overcoming infertility is recognised as a right.