4124 Contextualising Law in Action: The Legal Culture Approach

WG Comparative Legal Culture

Room: B2.02



Chair: Marina Kurkchiyan

Johanna Römer | Hunter College, City University of New York

The Role of Criminal Justice Professions in Mediating Public Conceptions of Competing Sovereignties in Catalonia, Spain 




In October of 2017, the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia celebrated a contested referendum which asked voters to decide whether the region should become an independent state. The divided results and ambiguous declaration of independence that followed led to ongoing Spanish interventions into Catalan governance, and an even more polarized Catalan electorate. Legal and law enforcement professionals were at the center of the conflict surrounding the creation of a legal framework for the inchoate Catalan state. Catalan prison staff have conceptions of justice and sovereignty informed by enforcing Spanish law in a purely Catalan jurisdiction. This paper argues that this group of professionals had an important role in shaping local communities' perceptions of about a Catalan political project. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in a Catalan criminal justice system between 2011 and 2016, the paper focuses on two social networks of prison staff. It shows how prison professionals, as agents of both a Catalan government and Spanish state, built forms of political participation that denied the relevance of a binary choice between Catalan or Spanish rule. The paper argues that prison professionals generated new conceptions of political authority and practices of political engagement both inside and outside of prisons through an ethics and practice of refusal. 

Joxerramon Bengoetxea | University of the Basque Country / IISL Oñati

Norm-user Approaches to the Concept of Law as Institutuion




The dichotomy between law-giver and norm user, especially in multilingual, multicultural contexts, is a useful way to approach basic conceptual issues necessary for any discourse and research project in sociolegal studies (comparative legal cultures, theory and sociology of law, theories of interpretation, theories of legislative drafting, legal pluralism) and also for any exploration of Practical Reason. It can be fruitfully applied in national, supranational, international and transnational contexts.

Patrícia Branco | Centro de Estudos Sociais

Valerio Nitrato Izzo | Univ. di Napoli Federico II

Intersections in law, culture and the humanities: contributions to a critical sociology of law




Ever more often, researchers and scholars seek to situate law in a social and political context. At the same time, there is a need to invest law and the social sciences with new roles and resources. We thus propose to look for the many intersections of law, culture and the humanities by presenting four topical preoccupations: (1) interlegality in everyday life; (2) the synesthesia of law; (3) material socio-legal studies; and (4) interactive ecologies of knowledges and methodologies. This will constitute part one of the paper. Parts two and three will look at two particular and very recent interdisciplinary relationships: those between law and music and between law and food. We thus propose it would be appropriate to expose students, learners and practitioners of all kinds to the difference that an understanding of the links between law, culture and the humanities makes.

Mateja Čehulić | Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb

Research approaches to the legal culture




Since 1970's, prominent authors in the field of legal culture were focused on theoretical definitions and criticisms of the concept, constantly re-emphasizing the importance of addressing it. On the other hand, despite the difficulties of conceptualization and operationalization of the concept „legal culture”, scientists continued to research and use it in argumentation of many social phenomena.
In addition to law and sociology, interest in legal culture also emerged in anthropology, politics, economy and other social sciences. Given that there isn't one, clear and concrete definition of legal culture, its elements and characteristics, the question of the use, meaning, and study of legal culture is still open.
With a goal of finding the most effective approach of defining and researching legal culture in the academic community, we conducted a content analysis of the scientific papers that dealt with it. For this purpose, the research covered papers published in scientific citation indexing services - Web of Science and Scopus. Selecting criteria was that text is scientific article in English, with title, key words, summary and/or text containing the term legal culture.
The aim of content analysis was to detect the definitions of "legal culture", the theoretical starting points and the research method in empirical research on "legal culture", specific topics in the field of "legal culture", as well as topics within which "legal culture" was mentioned.
The analysis has shown the widespread use of concept in the field of social sciences, as well as the diversity of approaches and topics that are related to the concept of legal culture. At the same time, the analysis identified different forms of definition of legal culture, as well as frequently referring to the notion of legal culture as self-explanatory, without assigning meaning.
Although this is proof of the scientific plurality and relevance of legal culture in social sciences, it's necessary to insist on a clearer definition, meaning and elements of legal culture in order to secure theoretical and empirical development, and enhance the usefulness and efficiency of the concept in explaining social phenomena.

Gabriel S. Cerqueira | Universidade Federal Fluminense

Legal ideas in Brazil, intellectual circulation and reproduction of ideas: the case of  Law School’s academic journals.


Full Paper




In this paper, we would like to analyze the intellectual circulation and reproduction of legal ideas through the academic journals of brazilian Law Schools at the dawn of the republican period. The Law Schools, as a legal training center, leave marks in the construction of legal culture. In Brazil that does not occur in a different way. The first brazilian Law Schools were created in 1827, headquartered in Recife and São Paulo. They remain the sole centers allowed to grant law degrees until the beginning of the republican era. The year of 1889, therefore, marks the emergence of several other legal training centers (eg, “Free” Law Schools of Minas Gerais, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro). A great circulation of intellectuals and ideas follows this changing. As a period (between 1889 and 1930) marked by some founding discussions about brazilian social formation (social control in a recent post-slavery society, developing of a working class and the urban growth, creation of a civil code and a family law shaken after the separation between Church and State, construction of the judicial apparatus in a republican shape, among others…) the jurists and other legal professionals will be called to position themselves regarding theses issues, at the same time they’ll have to deal with a reorganization of the legal field in the respective Schools. Hence, we’ll work with its academic journals, published since 1889 (and up, for our purposes, to 1930). Their positions, ideas, debates, will be expressed and publicized in these academic journals. We understand them as important displays of intellectual production of the academic corps as well as a privileged space of sociability, circulation and reproduction of legal ideas. In our times, when not only the judicial system and its legal professionals, like judges, prosecutors and attorneys, but the very concept of law and its ways are driven to the center of the public political struggle (in Brazil, of course, but also in a tendency easily observed worldwide), we believe that thinking with history, in a historical perspective, can help us better understand the grip of legal ideas nowadays.



Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload



Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies

Avenida das Forças Armadas | Edifício ISCTE | Sala 2W4-d
1649-026 Lisbon

Info Requests:

Design & Webmaster:

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • YouTube - Grey Circle