The relationship between multinational enterprises and local communities has recently received much regulatory attention in international forums as well as in courts and parliaments of home states. At stake is the role of corporations in society and hence, the societal re-embedding of global capitalism. Despite the lively regulatory endeavours on multiple levels transnational human rights litigations in different jurisdictions have mostly been unsuccessful. In this talk, whilst not contesting the argument that the reason for the ineffectiveness is due to home states’ procedural and substantive law I seek to go beyond it.

I suggest that the so-called ‘governance gap’ is related to an epistemological and ontological mismatch between the ways in which law imagines and constitutes corporate personality and the manifestations and lived ‘on the ground’ experiences of corporate personality. To substantiate my claim, I will draw on the anthropology of corporations and on my own fieldwork which I undertook with the mining corporation Prodeco Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swiss commodity enterprise Glencore plc., in its coal mines in El Cesar, Colombia. Based upon the ethnographic material, I will question law’s construction of corporate personality and the related definition of the nature and purpose of multinational enterprises. Such an enquiry holds significant implications for the localisation of responsibility and accountability within global supply chains.

On a more general level, my talk brings together the two dominant research strands within legal anthropology – law as a technique, specific knowledge practice and law as a form of regulation.