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Law, Culture and Society


Admission requirements

The Introduction to Socio-legal Studies is recommended.


This course takes up two fundamental questions in socio-legal studies: How does law shape culture? And conversely, how does culture shape the meaning and practice of law? This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to answer these questions and explores the social processes through which law, legal institutions, and culture are co-constituted. Building on theories and experiences from both the Global North and South, students will consider the relationship between law, power, and culture. Together, we will ask: What assumptions are embedded in law about personhood, land, and cultural difference? How do these assumptions shape the practice of law and social control? What challenges arise when groups attempt to wield law as an instrument of social change? Students will reflect on these questions in their own lives, and learn to apply the conceptual and methodological tools of socio-legal analysis to the study of disputing and social conflict.

Course Objectives

  • Compare different theories regarding the relation between law, culture and society;

  • Explain and illustrate the role of law in culturally constructing personhood, territory, and culture;

  • Analyze the relationship between legal pluralism and social control through observation and linguistic analysis of disputes;

  • Critically assess the challenges of mobilizing law for social transformation;

  • Evaluate qualitative and ethnographic methodologies for legal research.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course uses a variety of teaching methods, including (interactive) lecturing, student presentations, web postings, class discussion and debate. Teaching materials include readings as well as podcasts and film clips.

Assessment Method

  • Attendance and participation, 10%

  • Reading Presentation, 15%

  • Paper 1 — Analytical Essay, 20%

  • Paper 2 — Ethnographic Exercise, 20%

  • Ethnographic Proposal, 35%

Reading list

The required and recommended reading will be listed in the course syllabus and will be made available on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Matthew Canfield,