A New Agenda for the Cultural Study of Law: Taking on the Technicalities

51 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2004 Last revised: 25 May 2009

See all articles by Annelise Riles

Annelise Riles

Cornell University - Law School


This article urges humanistic legal studies to take the technical dimensions of law as a central focus of inquiry. Using archival and ethnographic investigations into developments in American Conflict of Laws doctrines as an example, and building on insights in the anthropology of knowledge and in science and technology studies that focus on technical practices in scientific and engineering domains, it aims to show that the technologies of law - an ideology that law is a tool and an accompanying technical aesthetic of legal knowledge - are far more central and far more interesting dimensions of legal practice than humanists have often conceded. The article's concrete focus is the nature of relations of means and ends in the Realist Revolution, as exemplified by the field of Conflicts, and the quiet but fundamental transformation of the character of those relations in mid and late-twentieth century legal knowledge.

Suggested Citation

Riles, Annelise, A New Agenda for the Cultural Study of Law: Taking on the Technicalities. Buffalo Law Review Vol. 53, pp. 973-1033, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=558605 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.558605

Annelise Riles (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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