Everyone Knows the Game: Legal Consciousness in the Hawaiian Cockfight
48 Law & Society Review 499 (2014)
23 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2015 Last revised: 21 Jun 2018
Date Written: 2014
Past legal consciousness research has revealed a great deal about what individuals think and do with regard to law, but less attention has been paid to the social processes that underpin these attitudes, beliefs, and actions. This article focuses particularly on a "second-order" layer of legal consciousness: people's perceptions about how others understand the law. Ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews with cockfighters in rural Hawaii reveal how law enforcement practices not only affect cockfighting rituals, but are embedded within them. Police practices and informal rules work in concert to shape fighters' second-order beliefs. These beliefs have implications for participants' understanding of central concepts, including order, disorder, and illegality. Examining legal consciousness from a second-order perspective also underscores that notions of legitimacy are constantly created and recreated. Recognizing legitimacy's inherently relational nature helps us understand how experiences of law are synthesized into beliefs -- for example, when an unusual police action directed toward a subgroup of fighters compromised the law's legitimacy for them. Foregrounding the relational nature of legal consciousness offers scholars a means to better understand and operationalize the dynamic nature of human relationships to law.
Keywords: rights consciousness, legal consciousness, cockfighting, crime, localism, police, law & society, Hawaii, ethnography, rural, rurality, law enforcement
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