SJSCA 29/2023 The law of the outlaw: Law and order in, with, and beyond criminal groups will be published in spring 2023

If Anthropology has produced an important corpus of works on law, there has been little research on the relationship between the law as a heuristic category and criminal groups such as gangs, mafia or triads. Most representations of such criminal groups tend to regard them as being outside the law, if not in active opposition against the established order.

This special issue adopts Wittgenstein’s notion of “family resemblance” as a starting point, and regards “law” as a heuristically loose category of phenomena. The special issue seeks to interrogate the relation between law and different types of criminal and criminalized groups in a reflexive and holistic manner. More specifically, contributions will explore the relationship between criminal groups and the law in at least three different ways: (1) the law within criminal groups, (2) the law of criminal groups within the local communities in which they are embedded, (3) and the relations between criminal groups’ law and the state’s law. The first issue pertains to the presence of a body of rules, norms or laws, whether systematized or not, within criminal groups. The second aspect focuses on the ways criminal societies establish order within the communities they are part of. Finally, the third element explores the ways criminal groups’ laws interact, oppose, or enter into dialogue with the laws of the state. Hence, articles are equally interested in informal norms, unwritten codes, as well as more formal laws, and propose an understanding of law that encompasses multiple areas of life and serves different functions.


SJSCA 30/2023 Forms of Autonomy: Assembly Practices and Collective Decision-Making on the Margins of the State will be published in autumn 2023

Over the last twenty years, many liberal democracies have seen the emergence of new forms of organization that seek to emancipate themselves from the “State form” by using decentralized decision-making tools and practices. However, often explicitly and with the aim of drawing on material likely to feed their own political experiments, these social movements do not hesitate to mobilize the work of anthropologists describing Indigenous societies said to be “against the State”, “anarchic” or “who have the art of not being governed”. David Graeber's work of anarchist anthropology, for example, based among other things on ethnographies of Amazonian societies, fed the Occupy Wall Street movement in which the anthropologist participated.

Despite the critiques we might have of analyses describing Indigenous societies as possessing an “anarcho-egalitarian ethos”, and despite the historical and cultural differences between the above-mentionned social movements and Indigenous groups, our hypothesis is that both seem to be driven by similar concerns regarding the autonomy of both the group and the individuals who constitute it. Indeed, these groups first question the legitimacy of States’ inherent centralism, in which decisions are imposed without regard for local choices and specificities. They then endeavor to proscribe the emergence of just such a centralized authority within their own group, through the invention of practices of assembly that cultivate the right of participation for all, and constrain or prevent the stabilization of leadership in the hands of only a few of their members.

This special issue aims to gather  ethnographies that highlight the diversity of aspirations and modalities of implementing  this double autonomy. How do groups attempt to resolve the tension between individual autonomy and the desire to organize collectively in order to confront States? To lay the foundation for this comparative work the contributions to this special issue will thus examine the diversity of assembly practices as a tool for collective decision-making, both in the indigenous context and in social movements that are seeking autonomy from nation-states.