This collection brings together a carefully curated selection of researchers from law, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history, social ontology and international relations, in order to examine how law and custom interact within specific material and spatial contexts.

Normativity develops within these contexts, while also shaping them. This complex relationship exists within all physical places from traditional agrarian spaces to the modern shifting post-industrial workplace. The contributions gathered together in this volume explore numerous examples of such spaces from different disciplinary perspectives to interrogate the dynamic relationship between custom and law, and the material spaces they inhabit. While there are a dynamic series of conclusions regarding this relationship in different material realities, a common theme is pursued throughout: a proper understanding of law and custom stems from their material locatedness within the power dynamics of particular spaces, which, in turn, are reflexively shaped by that same normativity. The book thus generates an account of the locatedness of law and custom, and, indeed, of custom as a source of law. In this way, it provides a series of linked explorations of normative spaces, but, more fundamentally, it also furnishes a cross-disciplinary toolkit of concepts and critical tools for understanding law and custom, and their relationship.

As the diversity of the contributors indicates, this book will be of great interest to legal theorists of different traditions, also legal historians and anthropologists, as well as sociologists, historians, geographers and developmental economists.

chapter |10 pages


Impure theories of custom and law

part 1|55 pages

Custom, law and “legality”

chapter 1|14 pages

Custom and primitivity

On the unity of the legal technique

chapter 3|20 pages

Land tenure and irrigation in North Vietnam's mountainous regions

Rights outside the law?

part 2|71 pages

“Codifying” customs in the face of social change

chapter 4|15 pages

Oral custom

At the origin or at the fringes of law?

chapter 7|19 pages

Law, custom and social change in New Caledonia

A case-study: Gender reassignment on the customary civil register

part 3|58 pages

Custom, law and property rights

chapter 8|19 pages

When land and sky turn French

Is there any place left for the Bunong when private land property disrupts customary spaces along the Vietnamese-Cambodian border?

chapter 9|19 pages

Proof and test

The construction of customary land in New Caledonia