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‘Does Anthropology Matter to Law?’

Reflections, Inflections, Deflections

John Comaroff

Does anthropology matter to law? As phrased, this provocation, worthy of address though it certainly is, may ultimately be unanswerable. The reason? Because, like all questions of this sort, it harbours others within it. Precisely which ‘anthropology’? ‘Law’ as what? As everyday practice, as theorised praxis, as pedagogy, as politics by other means? What, moreover, counts as mattering? And from where, in particular, is the provocation being posed? All these questions, patently, make a difference.

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In/ter/dependence: An afterword

Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff


Our closing reflection on the collection of articles in this issue argues that the modernist bourgeois figure of the autonomous individual, founded from the first on a Promethean fiction, has long hidden the sorts of dependencies, interdependencies, and intradependencies intrinsic to social life everywhere. This is all the more so in the twenty-first century, under conditions in which the relations between capital and labor, patterns of sociality and social reproduction, and Euromodernity itself are undergoing wide-ranging changes, changes that are deepening the tensile coexistence of human autonomy and entanglement.

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Law and disorder in the postcolony*

Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff

Are postcolonies haunted more by criminal violence than are other nation‐states? In this paper, Jean and John Comaroff argue that the question is misplaced: the predicament of postcolonies arises from their place in a world order dominated by new modes of governance, new sorts of empire, new species of wealth; an order that criminalises poverty and race, and entraps the ‘south’ in relations of corruption. But there is another side to all this. Postcolonies may display endemic disorder, but they also often fetishise the law, its ways and means. In probing the coincidence of disorder and legality, this essay suggests that postcolonies foreshadow a global future under construction.

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Reflections on the Rise of Legal Theology

Law and Religion in the Twenty-First Century

John L. Comaroff

Religion has always been intimately connected to law. Conversely, modern secular law, born of the separation of lex naturae from lex dei, has always been deeply theological. However, with transformations in the construction of the nation-state and changes in the sociopolitical scaffolding of the global order, the mutual infusion of law and religion appears to be extending both in scope and in substance—not-withstanding the ever more strident assertion of secularism by some nation-states. Counter-intuitively, the law itself appears to be ever more suffused with the sacral, while, across the planet, the sacral is reconstructing constitutional jurisprudence, administrative law, and much more besides. How do we account for this, for the rise of expansive cultures of theo-legality? Where is it leading? And with what implications?