Document Type



Published in Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 71, no. 3 (Summer 2008).


This article builds upon insights from contemporary anthropology to rethink the field of conflicts as a matter of cultural conflict. This approach shifts the analysis away from the dominant approaches in the discipline, which take as their primary metric either questions of state power or of individual rights. Drawing on a case of conflict between Native American legal norms and U.S. state and federal law, this article argues for a conflicts methodology that takes seriously the role of cultural description in the process of cultural adjudication. To do so, in turn will require us to adopt a more sophisticated, flexible, and complex understanding of culture. It will also require that conflicts as a discipline acknowledge, in a more reflexive way, that acts of conflicts adjudication, from finding foreign law to applying doctrinal tests, constitute the communities and problems they claim only to adjudicate between.

Date of Authorship for this Version

Summer 2008


Cultural anthropology