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The role of law within society fuels an ongoing debate. What is its purpose, which groups have it, and what makes law distinctive from other systems of social regulation? The positions taken in response to such questions in turn inform a range of actions from national and international policies on treatment of indigenous cultures to local strategies controlling access to courts.

This seminar explores these issues from the perspective of ethnographic studies undertaken within a number of cultural contexts. The connecting theme shall be to appreciate the variety of legal forms that disparate societies have adopted and to recognize the ways in which study of these alternative systems can inform the development of new approaches within our own. Examples include the influence of Karl Llewellyn’s work among the Cheyenne upon the UCC, and the manner in which the dispute resolution practices of the Zapotec and others served as the model for ADR. Students will be challenged to apply these insights to emerging issues in the current legal environment