Human rights; family law; fatherhood; cultural diversity; European Court of Human Rights; litigation studies; rights mobilization; gender studies
Alice Margaria is an Assistant Professor in Legal Questions Pertaining to Reproduction and Genetics at the Faculty of Law of the University of Zurich (Switzerland), where she is also member of the Executive Committe of the interdisciplinary Research Program Human Reproduction Reloaded. Before joining UZH, she was a Senior Researcher in the Law and Anthropology Department of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. She holds an LL.M. with distinction in Human Rights from University College London, an LL.M. in Comparative, European and International Laws, and a Ph.D. in Law from the European University Institute (Florence).
Margaria’s scholarship lies at the intersection of family law, diversity and human rights, with a particular emphasis on the ECtHR jurisprudence. Her book The Construction of Fatherhood: The Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights provides the first sustained socio-legal engagement with the role played by the ECtHR in (re)constructing fatherhood in contemporary Europe. She is the principal investigator of the project Who is the Court For? Bringing the Human (back) into Human Rights Research, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation (NEXT – Law Between Normativity and Reality). Integrating law and anthropology, this project and her recent research, more broadly, provide an empirical reconstruction of ECtHR case-law by giving voice to those involved and documenting the impact of litigation on contemporary unconventional families.
Margaria is the convenor of the judicial study visit “Diversity in the Courtroom”, which takes place every year (since 2021) at the MPI for Social Anthropology, in collaboration with the European Judicial Training Network. She teaches courses on gender and diversity at the Margherita von Brentano Center for Gender Studies at Free University Berlin. Previously, she taught courses on gender and human rights at Koç University (Istanbul), the University of Passau (Germany) and Freie Universität Berlin. In 2020, she was awarded the Chaire Genre by the Institut du Genre (Paris) and, in 2021, a Bavarian Gender Equality Grant to develop a comparative legal study between European and African experiences of fatherhood. She held visiting positions at various institutions, including Emory University, the University of Lund, and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. Margaria has also worked with international and non-governmental organisations, including UNICEF’s Office of Research, OSCE, and Human Rights Law Network.
Why Law & Anthropology?
Given my interest in case law, taking an anthropological perspective is essential to gain a full understanding of the complex dynamics and multiple forces that shape and develop litigation. In this specific domain, anthropology offers a set of methodological tools that enable us to go far beyond the text of a judgment. Indeed, it is only by meeting and talking with the protagonists (e.g., applicants, lawyers, judges, and civil society actors involved) about their individual experiences that extra-judicial explanatory factors can be grasped and the human stories behind litigation can be brought to light. In my own research, the added value of an anthropological approach lies therefore in clarifying relationships between real people and abstract law, thus allowing for a genuine assessment of the benefits and shortcomings of law as an avenue to justice.