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Comparability On Shifting Grounds: How Legal Ethnography Differs From Comparative Law

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Chapter Summary

Law, this is a lesson from postmodern legal anthropology and sociology, gains force inter alia through a number of social mechanisms that merge accounts, rules, and judgements. This chapter links up to the newer law-in-action concepts-and it does so not in theory but in light of research strategies that emerged in an ethnographic research project conducted in criminal courts and small law firms in the USA, England, and Germany. This chapter sketches how a general concept (&t;binding&t;) affords comparability without betraying the ethnography's demand for thickness. Comparative ethnography of criminal legal procedure used "binding" as a methodical reduction, a kind of pressure point, in order to produce comparability. The indexical foundation of thick comparison differs profoundly from the lexical starting point of legal comparison, according to which the selected items are stable and discrete.

Keywords: comparative ethnography; criminal legal procedure; indexical foundation



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