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date: 23 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter describes the history of the anthropology of law from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. It shows how legal anthropologists failed to foreground the profound economic changes brought about by imperialism, especially the impact of markets for labour and goods, along with the consequent legal individualization. It places the development of the discipline of legal anthropology firmly within the context of imperial rule, emphasizing the centrality of the fact that the subjects of study were also subjected to empires. Situated within this context, legal anthropology shared imperial governments’ agenda of searching indigenous legal systems for modes of authority and for rule-based law. Even as it cast aside its early racist and evolutionist premises, the discipline’s new functionalist methodology, because it was not attuned to recognizing and analysing change, failed to understand how new ideas about property and coercive marketization were affecting the legal worlds of imperial subjects.

Keywords: imperialism, property, markets, Maine, Engels, Morgan, Malinowski, history of legal anthropology

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