In contexts defined as both postconflict and postcolonial, how do ordinary people understand the law and justice? How do international rule of law ideas, norms and institutions encounter local justice beliefs and practices and what are the outcomes? In the wake of armed conflict, international peacebuilders, in collaboration with local partners, attempt to build the rule of law. They reform and reconstruct legal institutions, bringing the laws and courts of the target country in line with international norms, practices, and standards. Another central goal of this rule of law building exercise is to educate the population about the internationalized legal norms, practices, and standards that are being promoted. Through these efforts, international actors try to cultivate a liberal legal consciousness within the population, such that people will interpret certain experiences and phenomena through a legal lens and view the courts as the rightful place to address them. Rule of law building has been a major part of peacebuilding in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where I conducted 8 months of fieldwork. In this dissertation, I focus on the role of local actors in Uvira, DRC, in raising awareness about domestic laws and facilitating access to justice, especially through mediation services. I engage with the concept of friction to theorize how internationalized legal practices, which have been integrated into domestic law, encounter local justice norms and practices and produce emergent cultural forms, new ways of doing justice the integrate aspects of both. The outcome, what I call emergent legal pluralism, reflects new patterns of popular understandings and engagement with the law—legal consciousness. Popular interpretations of, and interactions with, the law circulate in society, becoming stabilized and institutionalized; they combine aspects of both formal and informal justice in practices and institutions both within and outside the state. Emergent justice practices do not adhere to rule of law builders’ expectations. In other words, I study the relationship between legal consciousness and emergent legal pluralism to better understand why ROL building projects rarely see their desired outcomes come to fruition. My findings highlight the complexities that define the relationship between legal consciousness and legality. First, I show the unique and innovative role of local civil society and legal actors in combining elements of the state law and local justice beliefs and practices to make the laws publicly known and justice accessible. In so doing, they construct emergent legal pluralism. Second, I show how legal consciousness gets shaped in ways that are internally contradictory, producing a plural legal consciousness, rather than a liberal legal consciousness that could more likely sustain a liberal legal system. Third, despite emergent legal pluralism broadening of the realm of legality, certain harms, such as witchcraft, continue to exist outside different regulatory systems. The lack of justice explains the popular turn to vigilantism, or popular justice. Fourth, from these findings, I conclude by theorizing a socio-legal approach to the ROL.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2018. Major: Political Science. Advisor: Lisa Hilbink. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 241 pages.
Emergent Legal Pluralism: Legal Consciousness and Unanticipated Outcomes of Rule of Law Building in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
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