Legal documents and ethnographic readings

This seminar will foreground a seemingly mundane part of our legal lives: documents.

The activity of documenting, as well as bureaucratic artefacts such as registers, forms and even calligraphy, increasingly spark the imagination of legal and socio-legal scholars.  Many of the paradoxes of the ‘legal’ indeed often lie in minute paperwork. Yet in light of the canonical opposition between ‘law in the books’ and ‘law in action,’ this intermediary sphere of ‘law in the paperwork’ still holds an intriguing, somewhat marginal location within law and society scholarship.  In the seminar I hope to explore with you some of the possibilities and challenges of studying law in the paperwork. Building on your thoughts about your own projects, Professor Jacob hope to discuss with you how ethnography, amongst other approaches, can hold potential when it comes to approaching the papered instantiations of legality and also illegality.

Marie-Andrée Jacob is Professor of Law at Keele University. Her socio-legal work is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing on ethnographic and more recently on archival methods.  She is generally interested in activities that sit on the border between legality and illegality.  In 2010 she received the Article Prize of the Socio-Legal Studies Association for ‘The Shared History’: unknotting fictive kinship and legal process’ (Law & Society Review). Her book Matching Organs with Donors was published in 2012 by the University of Pennsylvania Press.  Her work has been supported by various bodies including the British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Leverhulme Trust.