International Workshop:

"Plural Legalities"

Held on behalf of the "The Courts and the Poor" Project
at CMI, Bergen, Norway

1-3 June 2007

There is an increasing awareness of the need to acknowledge the existence, expressions and relationships that exists between state systems of law and alternative rules of law- defined in different political and academic contexts as popular, community, folk, indigenous, customary and religious law. As well as often having a stronger presence in the everyday lives of local communities and cultures, these alternative forms of law are also often seen as the only local source of defence and support for marginalised people and groups in situations where state and international law are seen to fail. There is a growing political and public awareness of the contemporary existence and importance of legal plurality, not only in countries with indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, but also in the industrialised societies as such. In the North and the South political discussions and practical initiatives are being taken to "legalise" and merge alternative and informal forms of law and justice with existing national and formalised systems of law and governance.

In this workshop we aim to form a comparative understanding of these processes through discussion and collaboration with outstanding academics from different disciplinary backgrounds who work both directly and indirectly with different empirical cases of these discussion and initiatives. We ask a series of critical questions as a point of departure:

  • What value does the recognition of legal plurality have for the poor and socially marginalised?
  • Does the current political interest in legal plurality mark a genuine break with formal and exclusionary forms of legality and justice?
  • Can the mergence of formal and informal implied in these processes be sustainable?
  • What value does the recognition of legal plurality have for conflict resolution, and in particular the rising cases of vigilantism and "resource-based conflicts" around the world?

Programme in pdf: