Building on the successful SLSA conferences—‘Exploring the socio in socio-legal studies’ (2010), and ‘Exploring the legal in socio-legal studies (2012)—the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford invited participants for a conference to explore the comparative in socio-legal studies.
Keynote: From pains-taking comparisons to pain-giving comparisons
In his plenary paper David Nelken will examine how the role of comparison is changing as places and contexts become increasingly interwined. This requires comparative researchers, and comparative sociologists of law in particular, to increase their level of reflexivity so as to study comparison as a social process. For this purpose it may helpful to distinguish between what will be described as 'disciplined comparisons', 'foil comparisons', and 'standardising comparisons', as well as to examine the feedback effects between them. Special attention will be given to the part played by comparison in the making and application of ‘global’ indicators designed to rank and thereby change the behaviour of the places being compared.
Comparison in the anthropology and history of law
From the point of view of comparative law, socio-legal studies opens up a vast field of subjects, approaches, and methods. Questions have been raised about how one might usefully compare law-in-action, legal culture, traditional or customary law, and transnational or globalized laws, and to what ends. This presentation describes the way in which an anthropologist or historian undertaking qualitative empirical research might use comparison to address questions about the nature, form, and purposes of different types of law. Rather than starting with theories, definitions, or specific problems, the researcher can let the terms of comparison emerge from the facts; and rather than struggling to identify an appropriate subject of comparison, the consideration of carefully-selected empirical cases can itself address definitional issues. This approach is illustrated with examples of transnational laws.