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BOOK : The Judgment of Culture. Cultural Assumptions in American Law

The Judgment of Culture

Cultural Assumptions in American Law

Lawrence Rosen

2018 – Routledge


The Judgment of Culture: Cultural Assumptions in American Law (Paperback) book cover



Legal systems do not operate in isolation but in complex cultural contexts.

This original and thought-provoking volume considers how cultural assumptions are built into American legal decision-making, drawing on a series of case studies to demonstrate the range of ways courts express their understanding of human nature, social relationships, and the sense of orderliness that cultural schemes purport to offer. Unpacking issues such as native heritage, male circumcision, and natural law, Rosen provides fresh insight into socio-legal studies, drawing on his extensive experience as both an anthropologist and a law professional to provide a unique perspective on the important issue of law and cultural practice.

The Judgement of Culture will make informative reading for students and scholars of anthropology, law, and related subjects across the social sciences.

Table of Contents


Part I: Bringing Culture into the Law

1. Defending Culture: The Cultural Defense and the Law’s Theory of Culture

2. Leave It to the Experts? The Anthropologist as Expert Witness

3. What’s It Like? Native Americans and the Ambivalence of Legal Metaphors

Part II: Nature and the Family

4: Should We Just Abolish Marriage? The Uses of Anthropology in Law and Policy

5: What’s Wrong with Incest? Perception and Theory in a Shifting Legal Environment

6: Natural Law or Law Naturalized? Nature v. Culture in the U.S. Supreme Court

Part III: Reaching Out

7: Medicalizing the Law: The Debate over Male Circumcision

8: The Incorporation of Custom: The Case of the Flashing Headlights

9: Is There a Place for Community? The Amish and the American Romance of Community


About the Author

Lawrence Rosen is the William N. Cromwell Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Princeton University, USA, and Adjunct Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, USA. As an anthropologist he has worked on Arab social life and Islamic law; as a legal scholar he has worked on the rights of indigenous peoples and American socio-legal issues. He is a member of the bar of the State of North Carolina and the U.S. Supreme Court.