Saturday, July 18, 2009

New paper by Cohen

Amy Cohen of Ohio State just published an interesting piece called Thinking with Culture in Law and Development, 57 Buffalo Law Review 511 (2009). An SSRN version is available here.

Abstract: This Article considers a recent programmatic shift among law and development scholars who have moved from advocating building rule-of-law processes, rules, and institutions to also building rule-of-law cultures. The Article carefully examines how these scholars envision culture as a tool to refashion the relationship between legal institutions and ordinary individuals. It traces the ways in which they use culture as a means to take law - general, universal, and acultural - and to make law specific, local, and embedded within the consciousness of ordinary people. It then suggests that this turn from law to culture produces a conceptualization of culture uncannily analogous to the conceptualization of law that the turn to culture was meant to supplement and correct. This similarity becomes especially apparent when examining development projects. The Article therefore draws on ethnographic examples of development challenges in Nepal to illustrate the difficulties inherent in culture change projects and the dangers of conceptualizing culture apart from the politics and conflict of everyday life.

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