Legal pluralism, legal ethnography, law and society studies, dispute processing, cultural translations of law
South Asia (particularly India)
Kalindi Kokal has a doctorate in law from the Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg. As a doctoral candidate in the Department for Law and Anthropology, she focused on understanding how non-state actors in dispute processing engage with state law. Her dissertation is an ethnographic study of dispute-processing mechanisms in two rural communities in the states of Maharashtra and Uttarakhand in India.
Kokal found through fieldwork that the extent to which non-state actors engage with state law in dispute processing is determined by how the values of community laws and state law compete and coincide with one another. Drawing on the theories of legal anthropologist Sally Falk Moore and Masaji Chiba, a scholar of sociology of law, Kokal argues that in the specific contexts of the two Hindu communities she studied, an experience of interconnectedness at the level of the self and the community and an instinct of self-preservation lay at the core of all dispute-processing activities.
Kokal’s work explores how village, birāderi (kinship-based) and neighbourhood pancāyats (community-based councils that handle dispute processing and other administrative activities), ‘barefoot lawyers’, and religious and supernatural elements operate as non-state actors in dispute processing within these village communities.
Why Law and Anthropology?
"Law is generally understood in an extremely positivistic manner in the formal courts of India. However, the manner in which people actually experience state law coupled with their perceptions of dispute resolution and state courts underscore the need to explore broader understandings of law and dispute resolution. Law in essence is a social code. The elements that constitute anthropological inquiry − social relationships, values, norms, and attitudes − are also the ones that form the foundation of law and society. Therefore, the mutual dependence of law and anthropology has to be given due recognition. I believe, as the scholar Eugen Ehrlich perfectly articulated, that ‘the centre of legal development lies not in legislation, nor in juristic science, nor in judicial decision, but in society itself’."