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MIASU Seminar: Fernanda Pirie

When Nov 10, 2015
from 04:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, Mond Building, New Museums Site
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Fernanda Pirie
(University of Oxford)

Rules, Numbers and Lists: Legal Order in Historic and Contemporary Tibet

Laws and legal documents in Tibet can seem complicated and over-structured. Legal texts from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, for example, arrange their subject matter into confusingly numbered lists of 'harms and non-harms', promises, 'precious deeds', royal laws, great laws, and moral codes. The lists and divisions apparently confuse, more than elucidate, their content. Meanwhile, in eastern Tibet, a much more recent code of tribal laws specifies compensation payments with great precision and distinguishes several different classes of victim. Such distinctions are not found in the processes of mediation by which blood feuds are, in fact, still resolved in the region. These are characterized, rather, by oratory and negotiation, arguments about honour, and the specificity of the events in question. The precise classifications and stipulations of the legal documents seem far removed, in each case, from the processes of mediation and conflict resolution to which they are, or probably were, related. In this presentation I discuss ways in which this apparently excessive legalism is to be accounted for, by drawing comparisons across times and with legal codes from other parts of the world. I will suggest that it is important to consider the idealistic, symbolic, and aspirational features of the laws in question and the nature of the social order they sought to represent.

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