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Legal Autonomy as Political Engagement: The Ladakhi Village in the Wider World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2024


Local systems of law are constantly forced to adapt to powerful external legal orders. As well as employing tactics of resistance and accommodation, some communities respond by maintaining boundaries around their legal sphere, safeguarding a measure of judicial autonomy. This article examines one such instance, from the Indian Himalayas. It argues that, much more complex than a case of domination and resistance, this autonomy represents a long history of deference and distance toward external forces. The maintenance of legal autonomy ultimately represents community ontology, but it is also a means of engaging with wider forces within the modern world.

Articles of General Interest
© 2006 Law and Society Association.

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The research on which this article is based was largely funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of Great Britain. Marcus Banks, Clare Harris, and David Parkin provided invaluable advice on the writing up of the field data. At the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, I am very grateful to Franz and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann and to Julia Eckert for their comments on earlier drafts. My thanks also go to Peter Just and a number of reviewers at the L&SR for their insightful and constructive comments on the manscript.



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