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Access_open ‘A Continuous Process of Becoming’: The Relevance of Qualitative Research into the Storylines of Law

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2018
Keywords storylines of law, qualitative research, law in action, law in books
Authors Danielle Antoinette Marguerite Chevalier
AbstractAuthor's information

    The maxim ‘law in books and law in action’ relays an implicit dichotomy, and though the constitutive nature of law is nowadays commonly professed, the reflex remains to use law in books as an autonomous starting point. Law however, it is argued in this article, has a storyline that commences before its institutional formalisation. Law as ‘a continuous process of becoming’ encompasses both law in books and law in action, and law in action encompasses timelines both before and after the formal coming about of law. To fully understand law, it is necessary to understand the entire storyline of law. Qualitative studies in law and society are well equipped to offer valuable insights on the facets of law outside the books. The insights are not additional to doctrinal understanding, but part and parcel of it. To illustrate this, an ethnographic case study of local bylaws regulating an ethnically diverse public space of everyday life is expanded upon. The case study is used to demonstrate the insights qualitative data yields with regard to the dynamics in which law comes about, and how these dynamics continue for law in action after law has made the books. This particular case study moreover exemplifies how law is one of many truths in the context in which it operates, and how formalised law is reflective of the power constellations that have brought it forth.


Danielle Antoinette Marguerite Chevalier
Dr. mr. Danielle Antoinette Marguerite Chevalier, PhD, is assistant professor at Leiden University, The Netherlands.

    In May 2017, the Ogiek indigenous community of Kenya successfully challenged the denial of their land and associated rights before the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights (‘the Court’). In the first indigenous peoples’ rights case considered the Court, and by far the largest ever case it has had to consider, the Court found violations of Articles 1, 2, 8, 14, 17 (2) and (3), 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Charter’). It therefore created a major legal precedent. In addition, the litigation itself and Ogiek’s participation in the various stages of the legal process provided a model for community engagement, through which the Ogiek were empowered to better understand and advocate for their rights. This article will first explain the history of the case and the Court’s findings, and then move on to examine in further detail methods employed to build the Ogiek’s capacity throughout, and even beyond, the litigation.


Lucy Claridge
Legal Director, Minority Rights Group International.

Dr. Beatriz Barreiro Carril
Lecturer of International Law (Rey Juan Carlos University).
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