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date: 07 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Law lay at the heart of the colonial encounter. This chapter examines the ‘deep effects’ that the colonial encounter had on law in Africa and how the very ‘litigiousness’ of Africans reflects both social change and African agency. Colonial officials used law to promote both legibility and stability of African societies. In practice, however, colonial legal systems promoted conflict by imposing rules and expectations that were not widely shared or deeply embedded in African discourses of political and social authority. The chapter explores how colonial legal pluralism led to the establishment of new formal legal institutions and how litigants used the multiple arenas created by overlapping systems of dispute settlement. Even though it was designed to respect ‘custom’, the colonial legal sphere involved the seepage of metropolitan concepts and procedures into native law and practice and often led to changes in the legal character and capacity of individuals. This enabled women, younger adults, and low-status individuals to confront men and higher status individuals even in courts designed to uphold custom.

Keywords: courts, crimes, invention of tradition, protectorate, prisons, colonial encounter, transcripts, shari’a, citizens, subjects.

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