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Advancing the Anthropology of Contract
Co-chaired by Laura German and Kelly Askew

March 20-24, 2023

Advancing the Anthropology of Contract

The proposed research team will advance the anthropology of contract by exploring the question, “What is contract within and across differently situated social formations?” By bringing expertise and ethnographic evidence on contractual forms in new arenas (piracy, the music industry, oil and gas extraction) and geographies (Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa, the Indian Ocean) into a core team that has been exploring the anthropology of contract in the land arena (in Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania), the seminar will advance a synthesis on the anthropology of contract. In so doing, it will complicate and question the standard Western juridical definition of “contract” as “a legally binding agreement.” By bringing new disciplinary expertise (contract law) and empirical case studies to the conversation, the seminar will further crystalize the novel insights brought by anthropologists to contract law and deepen the team’s ongoing engagement with legal theories of contract. The seminar will result in an edited volume advancing the anthropology of contract that brings ethnographic case studies into dialogue with relevant anthropological theory (on contract and contract-like things), and an article in a law journal to bring anthropological theory and ethnographic evidence to bear on legal theories of contract.

Laura German, Chair
Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia

Kelly Askew, Chair
Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan