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Institutionalisation between Theory and Practice: Comparative Approaches to Medieval Islamic and Late Roman Law

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores how different theoretical frameworks frame different understandings of institutions and institutionalisation "in practice". It briefly argues that the workings of Roman law and courts under the later Roman Empire should not be taken as an assumed model of full or "formal" legal institutionalisation, against which later practices, including the medieval Islamic, should be judged. Instead of working out from a legal-centralist model, the chapter contextualises formal or "state" law as one, specialist, kind of social practice that needs to be understood within specific concrete contexts. As the anthropologist Marc Galanter states, it can be tempting to assume that (formal) state law is just there, with legal actors meeting "in a landscape naked of normative habitation"; yet "in many settings the norms and controls of indigenous ordering are palpably there, the official law is remote, and its intervention is problematic and transitory".

Keywords: anthropologist Marc Galanter; formal legal institutionalisation; medieval Islamic; normative habitation; social practice; theoretical frameworks



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