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Cultures of Legality


  • Page extent: 312 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.5 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 349.8
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: KG83 .C85 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Law--Latin America--Philosophy
    • Justice, Administration of--Latin America
    • Courts--Latin America

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521767231)

Cultures of Legality
Cambridge University Press
9780521767231 - Cultures of Legality - Judicialization and Political Activism in Latin America - Edited by Javier A. Couso, Alexandra Huneeus and Rachel Sieder

Cultures of Legality

Ideas about law are undergoing dramatic change in Latin America. The consolidation of democracy as the predominant form of government and the proliferation of transnational legal instruments have ushered in an era of new legal conceptions and practices. Law has become a core focus of political movements and policy-making.

This volume explores the changing legal ideas and practices that accompany, cause, and are a consequence of the judicialization of politics in Latin America. It is the product of a three-year international research effort sponsored by the Law and Society Association, the Latin American Studies Association, and the Ford Foundation, which gathered leading and emerging scholars of Latin American courts from across disciplines and across continents.

Javier A. Couso is a Professor of Law at Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile. In 2006–7, Couso was the Tinker Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His work focuses on the study of Chilean and Latin American constitutional law and processes of judicialization of politics in the region. He has published extensively on such matters, in journals such as Democratization, Verfassung und Recht in Übersee (VRÜ), Griffith Law Review, and the Revista de Ciencia Política. He has also contributed chapters to a number of edited volumes.

Alexandra Huneeus is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is also a faculty member of the Legal Studies Program. Huneeus has been a postdoctoral Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University; a Visiting Scholar at Universidad Diego Portales, Chile; and a Fellow of the International Human Rights Clinic at the Berkeley Law School. Her research focuses on judicial politics and human rights in Latin America.

Rachel Sieder is Research Professor at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Mexico City. She is also Affiliated Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute, University of Bergen, Norway. She was previously a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London, where she remains a research Fellow. She has published widely on indigenous rights, human rights, and sociolegal studies, with a particular geographical focus on Guatemala.

Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

Cambridge Studies in Law and Society aims to publish the best scholarly work on legal discourse and practice in its social and institutional contexts, combining theoretical insights and empirical research.

The fields that it covers are studies of law in action; the sociology of law; the anthropology of law; cultural studies of law, including the role of legal discourses in social formations; law and economics; law and politics; and studies of governance. The books consider all forms of legal discourse across societies, rather than being limited to lawyers’ discourses alone.

The series editors come from a range of disciplines: academic law, sociolegal studies, sociology, and anthropology. All have been actively involved in teaching and writing about law in context.

Series Editors

Chris Arup
Monash University, Victoria
Martin Chanock
La Trobe University, Melbourne
Pat O'Malley
University of Sydney
Sally Engle Merry
New York University
Susan Silbey
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Books in the Series

The World Trade Organization Knowledge Agreements 2nd Edition Christopher Arup

Law and Nature David Delaney

Constitutionalizing Economic Globalization: Investment Rules and Democracy's Promise David Schneiderman

Law, Anthropology, and the Constitution of the Social: Making Persons and Things Edited by Alain Pottage and Martha Mundy

Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality Edited by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and César A. Rodríguez-Garavito

Justice and Reconciliation in Post-Apartheid South Africa Edited by François du Bois and Antje du Bois-Pedain

Judicial Review and Bureaucratic Impact: International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives Edited by Marc Hertogh and Simon Halliday

Paths to International Justice: Social and Legal Perspectives Edited by Marie-Bénédicte Dembour and Tobias Kelly

The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law Between the Global and the Local Edited by Mark Goodale and Sally Engle Merry

Public Accountability: Designs, Dilemmas and Experiences Edited by Michael W. Dowdle

Autonomy and Ethnicity: Negotiating Competing Claims in Multi-Ethnic States Edited by Yash Ghai

The Ritual of Rights in Japan: Law, Society, and Health Policy Eric A. Feldman

Constituting Democracy: Law, Globalism and South Africa's Political Reconstruction Heinz Klug

Planted Flags: Trees, Land, and Law in Israel/Palestine Irus Braverman

Social Citizenship and Workfare in the United States and Western Europe: The Paradox of Inclusion Joel F. Handler

Darfur and the Crime of Genocide John Hagan and Wenona Rymond-Richmond

The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State John Torpey

Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Sahara Africa Kamari Maxine Clarke

Immigrants at the Margins: Law, Race, and Exclusion in Southern Europe Kitty Calavita

Judges beyond Politics in Democracy and Dictatorship: Lessons from Chile Lisa Hilbink

Diseases of the Will: Alcohol and the Dilemmas of Freedom Mariana Valverde

Law and Society in Vietnam: The Transition from Socialism in Comparative Perspective Mark Sidel

Militarization and Violence against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East: A Palestinian Case Study Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

Lawyers and Regulation: The Politics of the Administrative Process Patrick Schmidt

Modernism and the Grounds of Law Peter Fitzpatrick

The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the Post-Apartheid State Richard A. Wilson

The Colonies of Law: Colonialism, Zionism, and Law in Early Mandate Palestine Ronen Shamir

Legal Reform and Administrative Detention Powers in China Sarah Biddulph

After Abu Ghraib: Exploring Human Rights in America and the Middle East Shadi Mokhtari

Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices Simon Halliday and Patrick Schmidt

Child Pornography and Sexual Grooming: Legal and Societal Responses Suzanne Ost

Culture under Cross-Examination: International Justice and the Special Court for Sierra Leone Tim Kelsall

Law, Violence, and Sovereignty Among West Bank Palestinians Tobias Kelly

Unemployment and Government: Genealogies of the Social William Walters

Globalisation, Human Rights, and Labour Law in Pacific Asia Anthony Woodiwiss

Courting Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Hague Tribunal’s Impact in a Post-War State Lara J. Nettelfield

Cultures of Legality

Judicialization and Political Activism in Latin America

Edited by

Javier A. Couso

Universidad Diego Portales

Alexandra Huneeus

University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School

Rachel Sieder

Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS)

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Dubai, Tokyo

Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA
Information on this title:

© Cambridge University Press 2010

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2010

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication dataCultures of legality : judicialization and political activism in Latin America / edited byJavier Couso, Alexandra Huneeus, Rachel Sieder.p. cm. – (Cambridge studies in law and society)Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-0-521-76723-1 (hardback)1. Law – Latin America – Philosophy. 2. Justice, Administration of – Latin America.3. Courts – Latin America. I. Couso, Javier, 1964– II. Huneeus, Alexandra, 1967–III. Sieder, Rachel.KG83.C85 2010349.8 – dc22 2009042022

ISBN 978-0-521-76723-1 Hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Part I    Introduction
1         Cultures of Legality: Judicialization and Political Activism in Contemporary Latin America
Alexandra Huneeus, Javier Couso, and Rachel Sieder
Part II   Courts and Judicialization Through a Cultural Lens
2         Legal Language and Social Change during Colombia’s Economic Crisis
Pablo Rueda
3         How Courts Work: Institutions, Culture, and the Brazilian Supremo Tribunal Federal
Diana Kapiszewski
4         More Power, More Rights? The Supreme Court and Society in Mexico
Karina Ansolabehere
5         Rejecting the Inter-American Court: Judicialization, National Courts, and Regional Human Rights
Alexandra Huneeus
Part III  Judicialization Beyond the Courts
6         The Transformation of Constitutional Discourse and the Judicialization of Politics in Latin America
Javier Couso
7         Legal Cultures in the (Un)Rule of Law: Indigenous Rights and Juridification in Guatemala
Rachel Sieder
8         Political Activism and the Practice of Law in Venezuela
Manuel A. Gomez
9         The Mapuche People’s Battle for Indigenous Land: Litigation as a Strategy to Defend Indigenous Land Rights
Anne Skjævestad
10        Judicialization in Argentina: Legal Culture or Opportunities and Support Structures?
Catalina Smulovitz
11        Novel Appropriations of the Law in the Pursuit of Political and Social Change in Latin America
Pilar Domingo


Karina Ansolabehere is Research Professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico (FLACSO, Mexico). She has a sociology degree from the University of Buenos Aires and a doctorate in political science from FLACSO–Mexico. She specializes in judicial politics, human rights, and legal cultures in Latin America. Her recent publications include La política desde la justicia: Cortes Supremas, gobierno y democracia en Argentina y México (México: Fontamara-FLACSO, 2007); “Legalistas, legalistas moderados y garantistas moderados: ideología legal de maestros, jueces, abogados, ministerios públicos y diputados” (Revista Mexicana de Sociología, No. 2, 2008); “Una reflexión en torno de la caracterización de las cortes constitucionales” (Iberoamericana, Vol VIII, No. 31, 2008); “Poder Judicial, entre el protagonismo y la desorientación. Un poder en busca de su papel,” in Antonella Atilli (coord.), 30 años de cambio político en México (UAM–Ixtapalapa/Miguel Ángel Porrúa, 2006); “Inercias, intereses y miedo a la ciudadanía: Suprema Corte de Justicia, Libertades y Derechos” in Gustavo Fondevila, Instituciones, legalidad y estado de derecho (México: Fontamara, 2006); “Jueces, política y derecho: alcances de la politización de la justicia en Argentina y México,” in Isonomía: Revista de Teoría y Filosofía del Derecho, ITAM, No. 22, 2005.

Javier A. Couso is Associate Professor in the Law Faculty at the Diego Portales University in Santiago, Chile. He is also an Affiliate Professor of the University of Chile. He has a law degree from the Catholic University of Chile and a doctorate in jurisprudence and social policy from the University of California, Berkeley. Couso specializes in sociolegal studies, comparative public law, and judicial politics. His recent publications include “La Judicatura como organización” (Santiago, Chile: Instituto de Estudios Judiciales y Expansiva, 2007), coedited with Fernando Atria; “The Seduction of Judicially Triggered Social Transformation: The Impact of the ‘Warren Court’ in Latin America,” in Harry Scheiber (ed.), Earl Warren and the Warren Court: The Legacy in American and Foreign Law (Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2007), and “When the ‘Political Complex’ Takes the Lead: The Configuration of a Moderate State in Chile,” in Halliday, Karpik, and Feeley (eds.), Fighting for Political Freedom: Comparative Studies of the Legal Complex and Political Liberalism (Oxford, UK: Hart Publishing, 2007).

Pilar Domingo is Research Fellow in the Politics and Governance team at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London. Previously she was a researcher at the Institute for Iberoamerican Studies at the University of Salamanca, Spain and Senior Lecturer at the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London. Her research interests include the rule of law, judicial politics, and human rights in Latin America. Her recent publications include “Judicialization of Politics or Politicization of the Judiciary? Recent Trends in Latin America,” in Democratization (2004); Courts and Social Transformation in New Democracies: An Institutional Voice for the Poor?, co-edited with Roberto Gargarella and Theunis Roux (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006); Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative Perspective, co-edited with Merilee Grindle (London/Harvard: ILAS/Harvard University Press, 2003); Democracia, participación y gobernabilidad en Bolivia 1993–2003: fin de un ciclo y nuevas perspectivas, edited volume (Barcelona: Bellaterra, 2006); Rule of Law in Latin America: The International Promotion of Judicial Reform, co-edited with Rachel Sieder (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, 2001); and “Las relaciones de poder y la justicia” in Luis Pásara (ed.), Los actores de la justicia en América Latina (México: UNAM, 2007).

Manuel A. Gomez is an Assistant Professor at Florida International University College of Law, where he currently teaches international and comparative law, international commercial arbitration, collective litigation, and legal institutions in Latin America. Before joining FIU, Professor Gomez was a Lecturer in Law and a Teaching Fellow at Stanford Law School (2005–7), where he previously completed his doctoral (JSD) and master's degrees (JSM) in law. Since 1995, he has also been a member of the faculty at the Universidad Central de Venezuela Law School (Caracas, Venezuela), and on different occasions, a Visiting Professor at the Universidad Católica del Táchira (1996), Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (2000–1), and Universidad Metropolitana Law School (2005). Professor Gomez obtained his first law degree with cum laude from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela (1993), where he also completed a specialization in civil procedure (1995) and practiced law for several years. Professor Gomez has conducted research and has written academic papers in a variety of areas including dispute resolution, comparative civil procedure, complex litigation, legal and institutional reform, legal education, and the legal profession. In 2007, Gomez received the Richard S. Goldsmith Award for the most outstanding paper in dispute resolution at Stanford University as well as a prize awarded by the Venezuelan Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). His doctoral dissertation also received the Law and Society Association's dissertation prize in 2008.

Alexandra Huneeus is Assistant Professor of Law and Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Before joining the UW faculty in 2007, Professor Huneeus was a Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. She received her Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley (2006), and her J.D. from Boalt Hall, the Berkeley Law School (2001). Her research interests lie in judicial politics, human rights, and legal cultures in Latin America. Recent publications include “Judging from a Guilty Conscience: The Chilean Judiciary's Human Rights Turn” (Law and Social Inquiry, 2010). Her Ph.D. dissertation explored the Chilean judiciary's changing attitude toward cases of Pinochet-era human rights violations and the rule of law.

Diana Kapiszewski is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests include the role of courts in politics and governance in Latin America, comparative constitutional politics, and qualitative methods. Her dissertation addressed the role of the Argentine and Brazilian high courts in economic governance in the postauthoritarian period. Recent publications include two chapters (one with Samuel P. Handlin) published in Reorganizing Popular Politics: Participation and the New Interest Regime in Latin America, edited by Ruth Berins Collier and Samuel P. Handlin (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2009) and “Doing Courts Justice: Studying Judicial Politics in Latin America” (with Matthew M. Taylor, Perspectives on Politics, December 2008). She also edited Encyclopedia of Latin American Politics (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002). She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley (2007), and master's degrees in Latin American studies (Georgetown University, 1994) and Spanish (Middlebury College, 1991).

Pablo Rueda is Professor in the faculty of political science at the University of Rosario, Bogota, Colombia, and a researcher at the Observatory of Collective Action Networks of the same university. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent research explores the relationship between economic and constitutional reforms and social struggles in Colombia, particularly of indigenous movements. Previously, he has published on judges and armed conflict, human rights, and social rights. Among his recent publications are “Hacia una Visión Dinámica de la ‘Legalización’ de la Política Internacional: Revisión Crítica de la Bibliografía” (Rev. Desafíos 10, Bogotá, 2004); “Politica Judicial y Legislativa: La Influencia de la Tutela sobre la Legislacion” (Rev. Tutela 43, Bogotá, 2003); “El Acceso de las Parejas Homosexuales al Sistema de Seguridad Social: Derecho al Reconocimiento Judicial” (Rev. Tutela 31, 2002); “Jurisprudencia Constitucional y el Conflicto Armado Colombiano” in Antonio Barreto and Daniel Bonilla (eds.), Derecho Constitucional: Perspectivas Críticas (Bogotá: Uniandes, 2001); “El Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU y la Proteccion de los Derechos Humanos en la post-Guerra Fria” (Rev. Desafios 2, 1999); and “La Corte Penal Internacional y el Conflicto Armado Colombiano” 43 Colombia Internacional 45 (Ed. Uniandes Bogotá, 1998).

Rachel Sieder is Research Professor at the Centre for Research and Advanced Study in Social Anthropology (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, CIESAS) in Mexico City. She is also an Affiliated Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway. She was previously Senior Lecturer in Latin American politics at the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London, where she remains a Research Associate. Her research interests include indigenous rights, access to justice and judicial reform, indigenous law, and human rights. Among her publications are The Judicialization of Politics in Latin America (coedited with Line Schjolden and Alan Angell, New York: Palgrave, 2005); Multiculturalism in Latin America: Indigenous Rights, Diversity, and Democracy (ed., New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002); and Promoting the Rule of Law: Perspectives on Latin America (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, 2001), coedited with Pilar Domingo. Recent articles include “Derechos indígenas, reformas multiculturales y globalización legal: ¿La construcción del ‘Estado de derecho’ en Guatemala?” in Juan Manuel Palacio and Magdalena Candioti (comps.), Justicia, política y derechos en América Latina (Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2007) and “The Judiciary and Indigenous Rights in Guatemala” (International Journal of Constitutional Law, 2007). Between 1999 and 2008, Sieder was coeditor of the Journal of Latin American Studies (Cambridge University Press).

Anne Skjaevestad is a Research Associate at the Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI), University of Bergen. Her master's thesis was titled “The Mapuche People's Battle for Indigenous Land: Possibilities for Litigating on Indigenous Land Rights” (May 2006, University of Bergen). Her research on the Mapuche people forms part of the CMI's ongoing project “Courts and the Poor.”

Catalina Smulovitz is Professor and Director of the Department of Political Science and International Studies of the Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is also a researcher of the Argentine National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET). She has edited, together with Enrique Peruzzotti, Controlando la Política: Ciudadanos y Medios en las Nuevas Democracias Latinoamericanas (Madrid: Temas, 2002), published in English as Enforcing the Rule of Law: Social Accountability in New Latin American Democracies (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006). Her recent chapters and articles include “How Can the Rule of Law Rule?” in José María Maravall and Adam Przeworksi (eds.), Democracy and the Rule of Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); “The Discovery of the Law: Political Consequences in the Argentine Experience” in Yves Dezalay and Bryant Garth (eds.), Global Prescriptions: The Production, Exportation, and Importation of a New Legal Orthodoxy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002) and “Societal Accountability in Latin America” (Journal of Democracy, October, 2000) (with E. Peruzzotti).

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