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Law and Society in the Maghreb


Admission requirements:

Admission to the Research Master Area Studies. Please, contact the “student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os”: mail to:stucovrieshof@hum.leidenuniv.nl or Prof. Dr. L.P.H.M. Buskens, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of the Research Master Area Studies.


Muslim societies are often analysed, by Muslims themselves as well as by non-Muslims, with reference to Islamic law. The behaviour of Muslims is hence presented as in compliance with, or differing from, the norms laid down by legal scholars in law books. This leads to an analysis structured by the dichotomy between theory and practice. During the last two decades anthropologists and historians have produced a considerable number of important monographs and articles on legal practice in the Maghrib which contribute to a more nuanced view of the relationship between actual beliefs and practices and Islamic normativity in its manifold manifestations.

The seminar is aimed at a systematic stocktaking of these recent developments in scholarship. The main body consists of an analysis of important monographs in the field, in relation to other publications of the author and kindred researchers. At the end of the seminar the students should have attained a good overview of the current state of learning and a more refined understanding of the relationship between Islamic law and Maghribi societies. Attention will be paid to research on law and society in both historical and contemporary times. The political dimensions of law will also get ample attention. The present developments in scholarship will be related to earlier studies on law, custom and society in the Maghrib, mainly by French colonial scholars. Another aim is to train students to be able to undertake research on these issues themselves.

This seminar specifically focused on Maghribi societies is embedded in a seminar on “Anthropology of Islamic Law” which is gives a general overview of the study of law in Muslim societies. Students specifically interested in the Maghrib will be provided with extra readings to be studied and discussed.

Course objectives

  • To offer a good overview of the current state of learning and a more refined understanding of the relationship between law and society in the Maghrib, both in historical periods and in contemporary societies. Different kinds of normativity, such as Sharia, local customs, and state law, will be studied as law. – To train students to be able to undertake research on law and society in the Maghrib themselves.


This course is (provisionally) scheduled on Tuesdays, 15-18 h.

Mode of instruction

Seminar, attendance and participation in the discussions is compulsory.

Assessment method

  • Attendance and active participation 20 %; – Oral presentation with handout 20 %; – Final paper 60 %.


Will be used.

Reading list

Will be made available via Blackboard.


Registration is compulsory .

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Prof. Dr. L.P.H.M. Buskens to:l.p.h.m.buskens@hum.leidenuniv.nl