The Politics of Customary Law: courts of elders (aqsaqals) in Kyrgyzstan

Project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Duration: 01.01.2006 – 31.07.2009

Head of the project: Keebet von Benda-Beckmann
Responsible researcher: Judith Beyer

The project was an anthropological study of a traditional legal institution in contemporary Kyrgyzstan – the courts of elders (aksakals). It aimed at analyzing the social significance ofthese courts as part of the current legal system of the Central Asianrepublic, especially in regard to their role as dispute management institutions. The research project contributed to the legal anthropology of Central Asia – an area that has been almost completely neglected sofar. It analysed the embeddedness of a traditional legal institution in local, national and transnational settings and show, how dispute management capacities of aksakal courts are assessed and madeuse of in these different spheres. Moreover, the topic of the project was to be seen as an important contribution to a new area of research within legal anthropological studies: the impact of transnational lawon local normative structures. The historical part of the research also filled a large research gap on the situation of aksakal courts inparticular and customary law in general, during the Soviet era.

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