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Maxwell African Scholars Union Presents: Stephen Lubkemannis

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Maxwell African Scholars Union Presents: "The (In)Security and (In)Justice Implications of International Rule of Law Reform in Post-Conflict Contexts: Liberia in Anthropological Perspective" by Stephen Lubkemann

Many Liberians have come to understand and seek justice in the decade following the long civil war within a complex topography of potential formal and informal justice providers profoundly shaped by externally-driven Rule of Law reform efforts. Drawing on five years of extensive qualitative and quantitative work in rural and urban Liberia, this analysis demonstrates how the perceived effectiveness and social responsiveness of both customary and formal justice systems has been undermined not only by civil war, but paradoxically by post-conflict policies that have sought to strengthen “Rule of Law” and re-establish a functioning justice system. Liberian strategies for resolving disputes and injustice of all sorts are increasingly informed by a mounting skepticism towards state courts and alternative customary forums alike—albeit for different reasons. These findings have implications for how the relationship between “informal” and “formal” justice institutions is understood and analyzed in war-torn societies; for rule of law reform; and for the broader tasks of “peace-building” and “governance.” Rule of law reform may, in fact, be inadvertently affecting the task of re-building the legitimacy of the state in highly unexpected and problematic ways.

Stephen Lubkemannis Associate Professor of Anthropology, International Affairs, and Africana Studies at The George Washington University. He is also the Acting Director of the GWU Diaspora Research and Policy Program.

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