Reference : Restoring order: Inheritance disputes and shifting legal consciousness in Cotonou
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Anthropology
http://hdl.handle.net/2268/169704
Restoring order: Inheritance disputes and shifting legal consciousness in Cotonou
English
Andreetta, Sophie mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Institut des sciences humaines et sociales > Labo d'anthropologie sociale et culturelle (LASC) >]
2014
No
International
Law and Social Order Seminar
23 juin 2014
Oxford
United Kingdom
[en] legal consciousness ; state ; inheritance
[en] For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on the litigants’ discourses on the law and the State in inheritance cases in Cotonou. As a matter of fact, over the last few years, the number of inheritance disputes handled by the Beninese state courts has drastically increased. In Cotonou, State of Persons courtrooms (Chambres Etat des Personnes) – competent with regards to family matters – are so crowded that people even have to queue outside during registration. Litigants often mention that they “referred to the state” in order to “restore order” within their families. The question is: does the legal system actually manage to meet their expectations?
In order to answer that question, I will focus on the legal consciousness of Beninese families and how this shifts throughout the litigation process. How do people understand and utilize state law in inheritance cases? Why do they go to court, and what do they expect from the judiciary? How does their understanding and perception of law adjust as they experience state courts? Finally, how do the aftermath of legal proceedings and the implementation process amend their legal consciousness? Within that framework, Beninese plaintiffs often go from trusting that the state would “restore order” into their family to believing that the judiciary somehow made things even worse.
While scholars have investigated how race , gender, or social status influence “the ways people understand and use the law” (Merry, 1990:5), there is however little reflection on the way legal consciousness develops throughout the litigation process. There is also a point to be made about the relationship between the law and the state. In Benin, people “refer to the State” when bringing a case to court and, through the judge, “the State” is the one solving their problems. Within that context, the way people think about and experience legal proceedings in Cotonou is as much about legal consciousness as it is about state consciousness. It is about the legitimacy and efficacy of the state in delivering public service; about governance and power.
http://hdl.handle.net/2268/169704

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