The value of ethnography and legal consciousness in a legally plural context

Ashley Rogers

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    As Silbey (2005: 359) highlights, ‘law is a basic, constitutive attribute of our social consciousness’. Meaning making in relation to law, society, and the Self are therefore intertwined. This paper suggests that ethnographic explorations of ‘legal consciousness’ offer everyday insights in to law and society, illuminating law as an organising principle of not only the meaning of law itself, but of life.

    There has, however, been much debate about the usefulness of legal consciousness in socio-legal studies, yet in a plurinational and legally plural context such as Bolivia, it provided a useful guiding principle in relation designing the methodological approach and conducting research. My research over one year in La Paz, Bolivia, reveals that by foregrounding the exploration of legal consciousness - in the context of a recently enacted law against gender-based violence – in depth insights in to the influence of law in everyday life are revealed. This highlights not only the relationship that women have with the law and legal institutions, but also uncovers the tensions that exist in a plurally legal context, where both state law and customary law are formally recognised in the country's Constitution.

    Researching law in everyday life, and in a (legal) culture that is different to that of the researcher (a Scot in Bolivia), raises important questions about methodology in socio-legal studies and the value of legal consciousness. What is the starting point in research that seeks to explore legal consciousness, but not privilege law as it exists on paper? Are constitutive theories exaggerating law’s power to shape meaning? Can ethnographic approaches to law in society help address these issues?
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
    EventSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2018 - Bristol, United Kingdom
    Duration: 27 Mar 201829 Mar 2018


    ConferenceSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2018
    Abbreviated titleSLSA 2018
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    Dive into the research topics of 'The value of ethnography and legal consciousness in a legally plural context'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this