Mediation and Conciliation

The contributions to this volume are derived from an international workshop in anthropology of law entitled “Mediation, conciliation: new figures, new challenges?”, which has been held in October 2016 at the Jacques Berque’s Center in Rabat (EHESS, Morocco). This workshop, organised by Yazid Ben Hounet, Mickaële Lantin Mallet and Aida Diop, has received sustained support from LabEx Tepsis, Jacques Berque’s Center for studies in human and social sciences, from NIMAR (Dutch Institute in Morocco) and the US Embassy in Morocco.


The initiative of this workshop in anthropology of law has emerged from several meetings. The first one was carried out as part of the EHESS annual seminar, entitled “Introduction to anthropology of law” which has been held since 2013-2014. It has been an important vehicle in linking the organizers of the current workshop and from different institutions (U. Oxford, U. Harvard, MPI Halle, UNIL, EHESS). The seminar was motivated by the desire to encourage young scholars in social sciences, in particular in anthropology, to conduct research on practices and legal mechanisms, from an ethnographic perspective.


The second meeting took place in the context of the workshop in anthropology of law, entitled “Truth, intentionality and evidence: anthropological approaches to crime and tort”, organised in January, 2015 at the Jacques Berque’s Center in Rabat by Yazid Ben Hounet (Las, Ehess) and Déborah Pucio-Den (Lier, Ehess) which resulted in an eponymous publication.

The third one corresponds to the workshop, “anthropology of law and propriety in Muslim context”, organised in January, 2015 at the Jacques Berque’s Center, in Rabat by Baudouin Dupret, as part of the close-out of two great projects on this issue (programs Andromaque, ANR Souths II, and Prométhée, ANR FRA). One of the sessions has been dedicated to the dispute resolution mechanisms concerning propriety.

The last one had been at the AFEA Second Congress in Toulouse (2015) where was carried on a panel entitled “Law and excessiveness”, made at the initiative of three PhD Fellows in anthropology – Mickaële Lantin Mallet (IRIS, Ehess), Clotilde Riotor (ISP) and Fabien Provost (LESC, U. Paris La Défense-Nanterre) – whose researches deal with legal practices in diverse sociocultural and political contexts. It was during these meetings that the idea of a workshop in anthropology of law was born, this time exclusively dedicated to ways of resolving disputes outside courts, and in particular, to the mediation and conciliation in different socio-cultural contexts. Beyond these four moments, the last five years have seen a multiplication of meetings, seminars and studies, especially as part of the PRI, “Law fieldworks” (LabEx Tepsis), which has been a means of dialogue between Law and social sciences.


This is why it seemed to us important for the anthropologists to participate more actively in this reflection while asserting the specificity of their approach. A way to achieve this is to rely on one of the subjects of classical anthropology of law – dispute and dispute resolution methods, both judicial and extra-judicial – and to analyse the processes in which these situations are integrated, the type of participants in these processes, their dispute experiences, and the way they represent and investigate the resolution processes. Notions like confidence (Bognitz), forgiveness (Guillou), peace (Bobin), citizenship (Dos Santos) are therefore used.

The contributions to this volume, inspired by Bertram Turner’s thought on mediators/conciliators’ multiple identities, can be likened to an ethnography of law as a process, but also to an ethnography of law in context and in action.


The conciliators and mediators, as well as their alternativity against state legal offerings and their institutionalization processes, have been a key focus of classical anthropological research on dispute resolution methods. As far as studies on legal pluralism are concerned, they have already shown that, in many socio-cultural contexts, matrimonial matters, matters of kinship, of distribution or access to property or to natural resources, etc., there is an interlacing of norms and practices linked to different authorities. Some of them rely on the legal repertoire specific to local popular and customary, religious or state authorities, others are conveyed – imported and sometimes imposed – through development aid programs established by international organizations that can themselves rely on and update traditional forms of peace and reconciliation processes (the bushingantahe in Burundi, for instance).

Conciliation and mediation mechanisms, actors and practices particularly will be investigated here in diverse social and political contexts (Post-genocide Rwanda, Amapa State, Amazonian Brazil, Navajo community, United States) that engage multiple institutional actors: State, NGO, local representatives of traditional and religious institutions, for instance.


Workshop coordinators: Yazid Ben Hounet (CNRS), Aida Diop (EHESS), Mickaële Lantin Mallet (EHESS).