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Law, Culture and Society


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, but Introduction to Socio-legal Studies is recommended.


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.

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;

  • Explain different concepts of what law is and analyze the relationship between legal pluralism and social control;

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

  • Give arguments for and against the different ways modern legal systems deal with cultural difference and can use examples to substantiate his/her argument


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be based on interactive discussions that will take place synchronously during bi-weekly seminars, combined with group and individual assignments that students will be working on throughout the course in order to reflect on the core questions of the course.

Assessment Method

  • Attendance and participation (individual), 10%

  • Reading responses (individual), 10%

  • Presentation (group), 40%

  • Exam (individual), 40%

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. Hoko Horii,