This course is suitable for 2nd and 3rd year students in law, social sciences (anthropology, sociology of development, public administration), and humanities (history, area studies, arts). Non-law students should be willing to acquire a basic understanding of legal scholarship, whereas law students should be willing to engage in subjects beyond the rules of black letter law. For this course a sufficient command of English is required (IELTS 6.5 or higher).
This course explores the relationship between law and culture and looks into two fundamental questions in socio-legal studies: How does culture affect the production of laws and the functioning of legal institutions? And how do laws and legal institutions affect culture and people's behavior - These questions become increasingly relevant through globalisation, migration, and the frictions of multiculturaism. Building on theories and experiences from both the Global North and South, students will consider the relationship between law, power, and culture. How should criminal law deal with the cultural background of those who have committed a crime? Is law itself a ‘codification’ of cultural norms and values, or can law be used to change culture? To what extent can law facilitate multiculturalism?
The course combines legal with sociological/anthropological perspectives and uses a comparative approach, looking at topics across different states and societies. It will use ‘real life’ cases to clarify the theoretical issues raised, taken from a variety of countries across the globe.
Students are expected to come prepared to participate actively in the classes, which combine lecturing, presentations, writing assignments, and discussions.
Objective(s) of the course
After having taken this course students will understand the main distinctions between legal and socio-scientific approaches to social problems and disputes. They will have become familiar with the answers to the question how law and culture are related one to the other. This will enable them to better understand and participate in debates about rule of law, human rights, and cultural defence, both orally and in writing. Students will practice writing and analysis skills via several practical assignments.
After successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
Describe the anthropological concept of culture and and deploy it to analyze the relationship between law and power;
Distinguish and evaluate competing conceptual and methodological approaches to the cultural study of law, including legal pluralism;
-Analyze the challenges of cultural recognition through law using examples from different global contexts.
The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.
Mode of instruction
Number of (2 hour) lectures: 12
Name(s) of lecturer(s): Dr. Carolien Jacobs
Required preparation by students: reading of two academic articles before each session.
Written exam (100%)
During the course, students will carry out two formative (practical) assignments. Students must submit both to register for the exam.
If the overall grade is lower than 5,5 the student can do a retake of the written exam. If a student has not passed the course by the end of the academic year, the scores on the assignments and the exam are no longer valid.
Will be announced on Brightspace.
Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide, the contents of the lectures and seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.
Obligatory course materials
Course information guide:
- Reader will be made available via Brightspace.
Recommended course materials
Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis. You may register up to 5 calendar days before the first teaching session begins.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.
Coordinator: Dr. M.C. Canfield
Work address: KOG, Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden
Contact information: by appointment via email
Institute: Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law
Department: Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (VVI)
Room number secretary: KOG, room B1.14
Telephone number secretary: +31 (0) 71 5277260