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Van Vollenhoven Lecture 2022 / LUCIS Keynote

Justification, Performativity, and Islam in the Anthropology of Practical Legal Life

Thursday 19 May 2022
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
A 0.51

Taking cases from his recent work in Indonesia and Western Europe, John Bowen argues for the importance of justification as a way to examine the life of law in the very widest sense. Justifications point towards ideas about morality, religion, norms and law in accounts of particular decisions. If the reasoning process of a judge, an inspector, a religious authority, or just an ordinary person is inaccessible to us in any direct way, public justification is open to inspection.

Justifications also, often, depend on specific ideas about performativity: when is someone married? What does God do with my prayers? Furthermore, what happens when the audience for a justification includes people with diverse and conflicting ideas about the validity of any one possible justification? John Bowen looks at the challenges of granting divorce in British shari’a councils and in state Islamic courts in Aceh, before turning to difficulties faced by halal quality auditors in the Netherlands.

About John Bowen

John R. Bowen is Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He studies questions of Islam, law, and society in Indonesia and Europe. Among his studies of Islam and Europe are Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves (Princeton, 2007) and On British Islam (Princeton, 2016). Recent collaborative works include Pragmatic Inquiry (Routledge, 2021) and Women and Property Rights in Indonesian Islamic Legal Contexts (Brill, 2019). Awarded a Guggenheim prize in 2012 and named a Carnegie Fellow in 2016, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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