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9 - Ancient and Modern Boundary Crossings Between Personal Laws and Civil Law in Composite India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2011

Joel A. Nichols
University of St Thomas, Minnesota
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Introduction: the realities of pluralism

The starting point of this chapter is somewhat different from that of most contributors to this volume, in part because of my late-comer status to the project, as well as my outsider perspective. Some European legal systems, but also Canada and the United States, have over time developed highly regulated state-centric methods of family law management that seemed to leave little or no room for religious and other authorities to make any input. Today’s agonized debates over the emergence of some eighty-five Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals in Britain thus reflect surprise, to put it mildly, that supposedly strong states are in fact not fully in control of family law regulation.

Such debates (if one can call them that) show that it is not sufficiently well known in a global context that European and North American models of regulatory framework are not universally replicated all over the globe. Colonialism never fully achieved its ambitious civilizing missions. In particular, it did not wipe out most preexisting sociocultural (and thus legal) traditions, but it did influence them. Today there is certainly no single, global method of managing family relations through state intervention. Rather, there are many ways of handling family law. Individual states have gradually developed patterns that suit their country-specific needs and national identities. In many cases, however, colonial intervention and other interferences imposed certain patterns that are not even close to what one may call “indigenous.” Hybridity of legal regulation is thus a global fact everywhere; pluralism of methods, specifically in the management of family relations, is a global reality.

Marriage and Divorce in a Multi-Cultural Context
Multi-Tiered Marriage and the Boundaries of Civil Law and Religion
, pp. 219 - 252
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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