Negotiating Afghan "Traditional" Law in the International Civil Trials in the Czech Republic

By: Tomáš Ledvinka & James M. Donovan


PDF: Limits of the Rule of Law


Drawing on ethnographic research of judicial cases in the Czech Republic which involve the law in migrants' countries of origin, this Article outlines how multiple strategies handle encounters with the legal-cultural differences of Afghanistan in order to neutralize what may be called the “alterity” of law. The Article suggests that far from being analytical tools, concepts such as “context,” “culture,” and “customary” are strategically used by courts to neutralize unsettling aspects of foreign Afghan legalities. Further, it applies Leopold Pospíšil's ethnological concept of legal authority as a vehicle for reinterpreting the contextual differentiation of Afghan “traditional” law as an alternative to the standard judicial approach. Lastly, this Article suggests that the legal-cultural differences in this and similar cases can be bridged by a new concept of legal sodality, which offers an anthropologization of legal authorities’ distinctive manner of imagining the law of the others.