Comparative Law and the (Im)Possibility of Legal Translation

16 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2013

See all articles by Jennifer Hendry

Jennifer Hendry

School of Law, University of Leeds

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Date Written: April 26, 2013


Comparative legal studies, whether taken as discipline or method, has long been engaged with the conundrum of translation. That is to say, with the question of whether or not it is possible to assert that a legal term, feature or process used in one locus has an equivalent in another, and the extent to which legal features specific to one legal setting, system, culture or mentalité can be ‘understood’ by individuals situated or educated in a different one. Translation is not only an important issue in terms of the focus and content of comparative law, however, but also informs and indeed frames the debate at second order level by permeating both the worldview and method of its proponents. This chapter will discuss how translation and its (im)possibility became the defining criterion within the debate and draw attention to the effect that this second order polarization has had upon contemporary comparative legal studies.

Keywords: comparative law, comparative legal studies, translation, communication, methodology, understanding

Suggested Citation

Hendry, Jennifer, Comparative Law and the (Im)Possibility of Legal Translation (April 26, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Jennifer Hendry (Contact Author)

School of Law, University of Leeds ( email )

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom


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