Prologue: some remarks on ethnography, race and law
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Legal rules, principles and discourses aim to regulate human behaviour. Law can be articulated, in a narrow sense, as the totality of binding rules, while politics can be seen as the discourses and contexts that surround the production and articulation of those rules. However, the usefulness of this narrow view of law is quite limited when analysing law’s relationship with society. Such a view can be critiqued by examining the legal encounter – the experience of law and its operant logics. By this, I am not referring to encounter with the rules themselves, but rather with the justificatory principles underlying the rules and the process of legitimation upon which such justificatory principles are based when conceptualising justice and difference. First, legal rules are applied in ways that are open to influence by social dynamics and ideologies beyond the rules themselves, upsetting the intended alignment between formal and substantive notions of justice. Second, the pervasiveness of the legal concepts in our sensibilities about identity, authenticity, rights, moral expectations, racism and citizenship, to name but a few examples, colour our notions about what law is as a set of knowledge-producing institutions.