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Law, Space, and Place: Reframing Comparative Law and Legal Anthropology


  • The author would like to thank John Comaroff, Shalini Randeria, and Carol Greenhouse for reading various drafts of this essay.

Ann Griffiths is Professor of Anthropology of Law, Edinburgh Law School, Edinburgh University. She can be reached at


In her book Mapping Marriage Law in Spanish Gitano Communities (2006), Susan Drummond challenges the disciplinary perspectives of comparative law and legal anthropology in her study of Gitano marriage practices. By reframing the way in which the “local” or “locale” is viewed—through an ethnographic study of Gitanos—she displaces the traditional boundaries ascribed to comparative law, with its focus on taxonomy and structure, and with legal anthropology's approach to culture. Her study not only elucidates how national and transnational law intersect, but highlights the complex interconnections between local law and the larger systems of law that attempt to regulate it. This detailed interdisciplinary depiction of the spatial and temporal dimensions of law demonstrates the importance of taking account of scale, projection, and representation that requires both comparative law and legal anthropology to rethink the nature of space and place and their relationship with law from both their macro- and microperspectives.