Jurisdiction: Grounding Law in Language
Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 42, 2013
33 Pages Posted: 10 May 2013 Last revised: 5 Nov 2013
Date Written: May 8, 2013
Jurisdiction, a concept often demarcating law’s territorial scope, and thus the bounds of state sovereignty, is offered here as a theory of legal language and its relation to law’s social force. Reconsidered in light of its etymology as “law’s speech,” new theories of jurisdiction suggest how law is simultaneously founded and enacted through language both spectacular (such as courtroom arguments or in the preambles of constitutions) and mundane (such as in legal aid in-take exchanges, or in the forms of bureaucratic records). Jurisdiction points up how the force of law, and the sovereignty that law’s force presupposes, can be seen as being made, and made seemingly unassailable, in the discursive and textual details of law’s actual accomplishment. This review considers a segment of legal language scholarship produced in recent decades, while arguing for the ground that language, as jurisdiction, always holds for law and sovereignty.
Keywords: Jurisdiction, Legal Language, Discourse, Narrative, Temporality, Linguistic Anthropology
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