Legal consciousness, civil society, and dialogical spaces

Ashley Rogers, Tony Ward

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    This paper draws on research in four countries – Bolivia, Colombia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea– to reflect on the role of civil society in the development of legal consciousness. All four countries boast progressive constitutions which are, at best, unevenly applied in practice. In Bolivia and Papua New Guinea, these constitutions afford recognition to customary law. Despite the importance in all four countries of various kinds of customary, informal or religious law, there is an increasing turn to hegemonic forms of law and justice. A range of social movements promote and mobilise recently enacted state law, for example in relation to violence against women in Bolivia, and land rights in the other three countries, but at the same time challenge the state for its uneven application and implementation. There are therefore interesting power dynamics at play, in which civil society organisations are central. They often act as translators between state and society, and in particular create ‘dialogical spaces’, where engagements with law, legality and rights can take place, influencing the way that member of society conceptualise themselves as rights-bearing and rights-claiming subjects.

    What takes shape in these ‘dialogical spaces’, we argue, is not simply the inculcation of a legal consciousness that is ‘monological’ in a Bakhtinian sense, a unified, authoritatively posited way of understanding the world. Rather, such spaces may facilitate the emergence of a form of legal consciousness that is ‘dialogical’ in the sense that hegemonic legal concepts take on new life and new meaning through an encounter with other, often counter-hegemonic, ways of thinking about social experience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2019
    EventSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2019 - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
    Duration: 24 May 201926 May 2019


    ConferenceSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2019
    Abbreviated titleSLSA2019
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


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