Comparative Studies in Society and History has come out with an online discussion, Priorities of Law: A Conversation with Judith Scheele, Daniel Lord Smail, Bianca Premo, and Bhavani Raman. All four scholars have published articles in CSSH over the past decade. Now, they interact in this blogpost.
Here is the set-up:
We are invited to think of law as a field of mediating concepts that are variously expressed in objects (palm leaf manuscripts and websites), words (sworn oaths and public declarations), sensibilities (honor, humiliation, probity), and statuses (household head, slave, guest). We are asked to consider law as a vehicle of moral display, in which fines and damages are paid in a proud attempt to assert membership and social value. Law is compared to a coral reef, a body of materials sedimented and alive, growing and calcifying. The process, we are told, has an almost necessary relationship with formality, with texts, technicalities, and legitimating props, all of them weaponized in competitive attempts to impose the best, most authoritative forms of law. In the end, the conversation suggests that law falls prey, forever and inevitably, to its own reliance on authenticity, as its practitioners and subjects forge legal documents, swear false oaths, and bring their own extra-judicial values and social forms into the very heart of law.You can follow the full conversation here.