Friday, April 24, 2015

LSA Hurst Award to Sharafi

The Law and Society Association has announced the winners of its 2015 awards. We're excited to see that recent guest blogger Mitra Sharafi (University of Wisconsin) picked up the J. Willard Hurst Award for the best book in Socio-Legal History published within last two years. Here's the citation.
Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772–1947 (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Sharafi's book is a compelling study of Parsi legal culture in India and Burma from the late 18th century to India's independence from British rule.  The book is based on impressive and extensive use of archival resources.  These are carefully mined to produce a rich and detailed portrait of this ethnoreligious community's deep interactions with colonial law, the legal system, and the legal profession.  As Sharafi demonstrates, these interactions helped create a legal culture and community that was surprisingly invested in the formal legal system under colonial rule.  This, in turn, helped shape both Parsi law and community identity.
This book expertly explores key law and society themes, such as legal pluralism under colonial rule, legal culture and consciousness, the disputing process, and the legal profession and its significance.  Sharafi also offers deep insights into the changing role of women as legal actors and legal subjects.  She examines with depth, precision, and great narrative skill legal issues including marriage and family law, inheritance law, and cultural and racial identity and the law.  Her examination spans case law, legislation and legislative reform, and also draws from biographies, personal papers, and other evidence reflecting the legal consciousness of her subjects.  The difficulty and scope of her effort, as well as her impressive success in uncovering and bringing to life obscure and difficult-to-access records, especially impressed the committee.  It also admired her ability to tell a lively, engaging story about a community that has not yet been the focus of very much sociolegal scholarship. 
Honorable mentions went to another recent guest blogger, Sophia Z. Lee, for The Workplace Constitution: From the New Deal to the New Right (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and to Ekaterina Pravilova for A Public Empire: Property and the Quest for the Common Good in Imperial Russia (Princeton University Press, 2014).

Congratulations to all!