Anthropology, ethnography and legal practice. Law as a practical accomplishment


  • Baudouin Dupret



There are definitely many ways to deal with the issue of law in general and in Arab countries, like Egypt, in particular, among which the anthropological, historical and political perspectives. Through the reading of, among others, Alan Watson 2 , Brian Tamanaha 3 , Nathan Brown 4 , I learned a lot. However, I got the strong feeling that I did not learn what I wanted to know, that there was a kind of “missing-what” in what I call the classical approach to law. This missing-what is the phenomena of “codifying”, “code-referring”, “adjudicating”, “pleading”, “defending”, “suing”, “appealing”, “looking for grounds, excuses, justifications, causes, intentions”, “producing facts”, “characterizing facts”, the gerundive form of these many words indicating their activity nature. In other words, by looking for the law in the dynamics of history, research had lost the phenomenon of the law itself. These analyses are acutely grounded in concepts (codification process, positivization, modernization, etc.), categories (Islamic law, indigenous law, imported law, etc.) and theories (systemic, structural, realist, behavioral, etc.), but, by so doing, it probably misses an essential part of its object, perhaps even the core of its topic, i.e. the practice of codifying, code-referring, adjudicating, pleading, defending, suing, appealing, looking for grounds, excuses, justifications, causes, intentions, producing facts, characterizing facts, etc.. In sum, the law, in these scholarly works, is used as a resource for explaining larger issues, like change, power, domination, equality. However, the law is forgotten as a topic in its own right.