A new colleague in a recent email communication about this journal posed the question of whether the term ‘legal’ was being put in opposition to ‘illegal’: was there an illegal anthropology? My response must be left in part to the views of other likely interlocutors as to what is or can be evoked when we seemingly endeavour to attach or subdivide anthropology in envisaged specialist areas. The acknowledged spaces to bring out understandings of the legal alongside and within anthropology, in general, through particular frames and representations turn our attention to a dialogical field of knowledge in relation to sociolegal phenomena. I further consider that legal anthropology is not simply, if it ever was, about a type of anthropology called legal, whether opposed to illegal or not, to give a nod to such asides. The wide scholarship eschews any isolated idea of legal in anthropology and incorporates analyses of everyday settings marked, for instance, by implicit and explicit systems of governance and how these are experienced. This also ranges from historical readings of customs and norms to accounts of contemporary rational-legal settings.
Knowledge Fields and Sociolegal Phenomena
In and Out of Marginality
The forum in this issue, reflecting on the problematics of the relationship between anthropology and law, as a timely focus is also indicative of how these debates revolve around disciplinary and cross-disciplinary issues. That such co-presence of anthropology and law, incorporating research in informal and formal settings, various kinds of collaboration and, in some instances, sceptical views about its value, continues to merit close attention also signals how views of differences animate a well-populated and extended field. The concerns are often articulated around an epistemic divide between anthropology and law, and allow for questioning both within and across disciplinary areas, even as much is made of the richness of an ethnographic approach to law alongside other methods and analyses, as indicated. Lawrence Rosen, in his response to the commentators in the forum, notes ‘our special area of interest is actually a great doorway into many key issues for both disciplines’, as he identifies the spaces where it is incumbent for anthropologists to act to address these cross-disciplinary challenges.