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The Globalization of Sympathetic Law and Its Consequences

American Bar Foundation
The Globalization of Sympathetic Law and Its Consequences: [Commentary]
Author(s): Mark Goodale
Law & Social Inquiry,
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Summer, 2002), pp. 595-608
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Bar Foundation
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The Globalization of Sympathetic
Law and Its Consequences Mark Goodale
Laura Nader
and Elisabetta
timely and important
article asks
us, among other things, to consider both the intentions behind, and the
of, the "global
ADR revolution." These two aspects
of the
issue require
The first is a demand to examine the
ideological underpinnings
of a legal worldview
that, at its source,
is con-
structed as counter-hegemonic,
or what I will call sympathetic.
That is, alter-
native dispute resolution and other similar doctrines are understood
those who embrace
them as not simply
and better
although they, of course,
are thought
to have that func-
tion; rather,
ADR reflects a concrete
and sympathetic
to critiques
by the marginalized
of the dominant law's inaccessibility,
and irrelevance.
By a process
of sympathy by analogy,
the plight before the
law of the marginalized
within, for example,
the United States-the poor,
the ignored
the oppressed
ethnic groups-is thought
to approxi-
mate the legal dilemmas of the marginalized everywhere.
As Nader and
in recent years
the regions
thought most in need of
law by concerned
institutions and governments
in the United
States and Western
have been areas
within the postcolonial
that are characterized
by a complex legal pluralism.
The second aspect of the global ADR revolution that Nader and
Grande ask us to consider is its consequences;
as they say, "any ADR
scheme needs careful
of the social conditions in which it ... oper-
ate[s]" (2002, 590). What exactly happens
at the local level when ADR is
Mark Goodale is Marjorie Shostak Lecturer in Anthropology, Department of
Anthropology, Emory University. He would like to thank Elizabeth Mertz for her close
reading of this commentary. Her suggestions allowed him to improve it considerably.
© 2002 American Bar Foundation.
0897-6546/02/2703-595$01.00 595
introduced by nongovernmental organizations or international agencies, or
by national institutions working in concert with NGOs or the United Na-
tions? Or, to broaden the examination of sympathetic law: What is the ef-
fect on legal consciousness and identity when locals in rural Africa or Latin
America are told by representatives of prestigious and powerful agencies like
USAID that they have legal rights as humans,
or as women, and that these
rights, although perhaps not recognized locally, nevertheless exist and are
superior to local legal doctrines?
I will focus my response to Nader and Grande's article on the second
part, the consequences of the globalization of sympathetic law. Indeed, Na-
der and Grande have already effectively deconstructed the complex inten-
tions behind the global ADR revolution. In my opinion what is most
valuable is their penetrating analysis of the ideological nature of sympa-
thetic legalities like ADR. We need to acknowledge that their argument
will seem provocative to many, and for this reason in particular:
ADR and
other sympathetic law are understood implicitly by many who advocate
their use to be non-ideological
responses to the Hogarthian vices of hege-
monic state law. What Nader and Grande show us, however, is that ADR
with it its own set of ideological "baggage,"
and that its impact at the
local level in many parts of the postcolonial world cannot be predicted.
Moreover, their argument perhaps leads to another conclusion that should
be noted: that legal paradigms
are never objective or context-less or univer-
sally valid. To recognize this is not to prevent us from seeking or advocating
more effective or democratic or emancipatory legalities, whatever we under-
stand these to mean. But it does indicate that in the absence of consensus
about doctrine, we should pay careful attention to consequences.
In the rest of this response, I will first develop somewhat more fully my
own position about the development and use of sympathetic law. Then I
will illustrate the usefulness of Nader and Grande's arguments through a
case study from one region in rural Latin America, an area that has been an
epicenter for the introduction of sympathetic law in recent years. I will de-
scribe what happened when NGOs and other institutions descended on ru-
ral villages during the 1990s intending to "develop" local populations
through the use of, among other things, human rights doctrines and literate
legal techniques. As this material shows, Nader and Grande's emphasis on
consequences is exactly right: In the case of rural Bolivia, the assertive im-
plementation by powerful outside institutions of nonlocal legal paradigms
disrupted local social and legal networks, which, at times, worked to the
detriment of precisely those groups that were expected to most benefit from
the new legal theories and practices.
Globalization of Sympathetic Law 597
By sympathetic
law I mean legal theories and practices that are under-
stood by concerned individuals and institutions in the United States and
Western Europe to serve humanitarian, social reformist, and counter-hege-
monic functions when introduced to, and used by, groups at the margins of
cultural, economic, and legal power. Sympathetic law is humanitarian in
that it is supposed to equitably advance the general welfare wherever it is
used, as opposed to dominant law, which is understood to serve the narrow
interests of elites. Sympathetic law is social reformist in that it is supposed
to have concrete and positive effects for those marginalized groups who use
it; this is contraposed to the abstract and ethereal impact of dominant law,
which claims to advance such indiscernible interests as "justice" and "the
good." Finally, sympathetic law is counter-hegemonic in that marginalized
groups are supposed to be able to use it as a tool of resistance, as a way to
strategically advance their interests in relation to embedded structures of
power. Now it is not possible to say in advance whether sympathetic law
will actually serve these functions in the diverse locations where it is intro-
duced and adopted; in specific cases, it might actually be humanitarian, so-
cial reformist, and counter-hegemonic. But as we learn from Nader and
Grande's article, we have reason to doubt that universal effects will natu-
rally flow from an intention to apply such legal theories and practices
An example of sympathetic law is the bundle of alternative dispute
resolution techniques represented by mediation, which as Nader and
Grande show, is believed by many ADR advocates to come closest to the
dispute resolution techniques used by the Noble Legal Savage in the state of
nature, where settling disputes, transmitting land, or establishing rights and
obligations was done in complete harmony with wider cultural logics, with-
out guile, and with the primary goal of preserving social bonds. And, to
complete the cycle, as Nader and Grande illustrate, ADR is now brought
and reintroduced to those societies in the Third and Fourth Worlds
that are deemed to be still nearest the state of nature, and from which dis-
pute resolution techniques like mediation are thought to be derived.
Another, somewhat different, kind of sympathetic law can be found in
the legal theories and practices embodied in Western human rights dis-
course. Human rights doctrines, as reflected today principally in United Na-
tions conventions and proclamations, are, of course, latter-day examples of
natural law, which applies to all peoples regardless
of cultural belief or posi-
tion. The positive law of a nation-state is "just"
to the extent that it accords
with the set of timeless and transcendent natural law propositions. Whether
they have their origin in divine law, secular humanism, or right reason,
human rights as a type of natural law serve as a clear standard against which
the law of nations is judged. Nader and Grande might view this Western
import to be somewhat different from the other kinds of sympathetic law I
will discuss because it is frequently implemented in formal legal contexts in
contrast to, for example, alternative dispute resolution techniques. And, to
be sure, this difference is not insignificant. Yet, because human rights dis-
course is also an example of sympathetic law imported from the West, it
affords an interesting point of contrast and comparison.
A final example of sympathetic law is more subtle and difficult to rec-
ognize. Although the ideology of literate legality played an essential role
during the imposition of colonial law throughout the world, the techniques
associated with it-like written codification, archiving, and the privileging
of written, as opposed to oral, forms of evidence-are, like mediation, being
reintroduced among postcolonial societies as part of development strategies.
But unlike mediation, which is understood to reflect "traditional"
or indige-
nous legal practices, techniques of literate legality have been emphasized as
a way to finally use the master's tools to bring down the master's house.1
Nevertheless, as we will see below, as with other types of sympathetic law,
literate legality can be a Pandora's box for communities that have an elabo-
rated oral-legal tradition.
During the 1990s NGOs arrived in rural Bolivia in increasing numbers.
This was largely a coordinated international effort whose goal was the "de-
velopment" of regions in Bolivia that were ranked as "poorest"
according to
national and international criteria like infant mortality, life expectancy, and
literacy rates.3 International NGOs, working in conjunction with their na-
tional counterparts, descended on rural
Bolivian villages with plans to mod-
ernize life by introducing Western health practices, sanitary technology, and
most important for my purposes here, sympathetic law. What I describe be-
low are the consequences of this coordinated effort more generally, and
then the consequences of the introduction of sympathetic law in particular.
1. For more on the ideological nature of literate legality, see Clanchy 1979; Goodale
1998; Philips 1998; Ross 1998a, 1998b; and Thomas 1992, 1995.
2. The discussion in this and the following sections is based on 15 months of legal
ethnographic research conducted in Bolivia, which was made possible, in part, by funding
from the National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program (SES #9807836). For
a full description of this project, see Goodale 2001.
3. The table (on page 599) lists of some of the more influential NGOs that were active
in rural Bolivia during the 1990s.
Globalization of Sympathetic Law 599
A. The Arrival of the NGOs
The effect on villages
in rural
Bolivia in which NGOs worked
the 1990s was immediate
and clear in the form of potable
wash ba-
duchas solares
for food"
But the villages
that the NGOs had not reached
were also affected
in two unintended
the 1990s,
NGOs made
it clear
that the villages
were accessible
by road would
be the ones they would visit and enter into
with. This meant that many
that sat at the bottom of
deep river
were bypassed
by NGOs. Villages
that were inaccessible
for other topographic
were also left behind. In response,
moved to the higher plateau
areas that could be reached
by various
that traverse the deep Andean river
valleys. Typically
this process
two villages from the same indigenous social structure,
called an ayllu,4
bining themselves,
but only if the village at the higher
elevation agreed
the move. A formal
to combine
very rarely
and many intervillage
conflicts arose
because of these tensions.
this process
was a gradual
one: Villages "crept"
up the side of hills higher
and higher toward
the road-accessible
This process
was re-
flected in the birth of new villages
with alto
(or upper) placed
in front of the
name of the existing village.
Second, villages
that could not combine
with others within the same
or villages
that were in areas with no road-accessible
NGO Country Principal Activity
UNICEF United States Potable water until about 1992; then adult literacy
(e.g., Yuyay
"to capture
PROINPA Holland Various potato projects
PROSEMPA Bolivia-Holland Various potato projects and forestation
PROCLADE Spain Forestation,
FAO-Holanda Holland Forestation
PCI United States "Work
for food"
Mosoj Causay Belgium Potable water, "human
("new life")
Peace Corps United States Various projects
Caritas Suiza Switzerland Potable water
4. An ayllu is a macro-regional, fictive kinship unit that was probably created to deal
with the challenges of living in the extreme ecological zones in the Andes (Murra 1972,
1975). The ayllu has been the basic unit of Andean social organization since pre-Hispanic
times. Particularly in the north of Potosi Department (a department is the equivalent of a
U.S. state), where I conducted the major portion of my recent research, ayllus retain many of
their pre-Hispanic features, including "an internal organization based on dual and vertically-
organized segments, communal distribution of resources, and a 'vertical' land tenure system
which includes the use of non-contiguous puna (highland) and valley lands" (Rivera Cusican-
qui 1991; see also Platt 1982). The internal organization of ayllus can be conceptualized as a
set of nested boxes, with each territorial and kinship unit part of an ever larger set of ethnic
units that culminate in one grand unit, itself divided into two moieties, which relate to each
other as complementary opposites (Platt 1982, 5).
600 LAW
even at higher elevations, began to die during the 1990s. A clear and poign-
ant example of this was the cantonal capital Iturata, tucked away in the
southeast corner of Alonso de Ibafiez, far from the provincial capital.5
Iturata was one of the oldest villages in the province and featured one of the
few sixteenth-century chapels in the province outside of the provincial cap-
ital itself. The closest point at which a road approached Iturata was about a
two-hour walk to the south along a major river. But this was too far from
Iturata to allow the village to build a connecting road, especially given the
fact that for six months of the year, during the rainy season, the road would
be impassable. Further,
the distance was too great to allow for "creeping,"
joining other villages closer to the road, even if the villages to the south of
Iturata had been in the same ayllu. The result was that during the 1990s,
became virtually a ghost town; during the time I conducted research
there in 1998 and 1999, only five people lived in the village, all of them too
elderly to follow their families, most of whom had migrated to major cities
like Oruro or Cochabamba.
Besides the impact on social infrastructure that NGOs have had in
villages where they were active, during recent years their presence has also
added a new and powerful variable to the changing power dynamics that
began in earnest with the growth of rural peasant unions in Bolivia in the
1950s. With the rise of these peasant unions, the position of ayllu legal and
political authorities was weakened considerably. But the presence of the
NGOs fueled this process by orders of magnitude. Almost from the begin-
ning of the 1990s, NGO officials found that the younger union authorities
generally spoke Spanish better and had more recent experience with urban
Bolivian life than ayllu authorities. For example, many young men had
served in the army, and some had also spent time in the Chapare region
working in the coca fields. Further, since union authorities tended to be
more receptive to recording legal information (see below on literate legal-
ity), NGO officials found it easier to work with them than with ayllu offi-
cials, who did not use recognizable forms of legal recording and, more
important, who were part of a social structure that was unintelligible to
The result was twofold. First, positions that had previously been lower
in the local authority hierarchy, like union director, became more impor-
tant within villages. This did not mean, however, that older men, who were
associated with the more prestigious ayllu positions, began to move into
these positions; their lack of Spanish and inexperience with "modem ways"
prevented this. Second, other non-ayllu, non-union authority positions, the
so-called political positions-positions that were also formerly filled by
older, more respected men, and that were at least as important as the ayllu
5. Alonso de Ibafez, in the north of Bolivia's Potosi Department, was the region where I
conducted most of my research during 1998-99.
of Sympathetic
Law 601
even before
the 1950s-were being filled by younger
men as well.
This development
was even more dramatic than the increasing importance
of union directors,
because the political positions were important
in the
long before the peasant
unions and the arrival of NGOs. The fact
that 19- and 20-year-old
men were
filling these posts
because of the implicit
demands of foreign
and Bolivian
NGOs was one of the clearest
signs that
development activities of the 1990s had produced unintended
B. The Introduction of Sympathetic Law
Although NGOs were not incorporating
mediation or other ADR
into their
in rural
Bolivia as of the 1990s,
they were using the two other closely related types of sympathetic
law I
have described above:
doctrines and the techniques
of literate
legality. Significantly
different consequences
flowed from each of these
moves. In the case of the introduction
of human rights discourse,
threat of domestic
violence were
able to invoke human
to protect
and their children.
But the emphasis
on literate
by NGOs led to an erosion in traditional
structures of power
through a devaluing of the local indigenous languages.
As Nader and
show so well, the global
ADR revolution is only one part
of a wider
process of globalization,
in which the extension of Western legalities
the world-particularly
in commercial and political
is one important
in the larger project
of modernity.
Thus, an examination
of the consequences
of the use by NGOs and
other similar
of human rights
and literate
Bolivia provides
an effective comparative
example, and also under-
scores the importance
of Nader and Grande's
that we must un-
derstand the social implications of legal transplantation,
which are
of the sympathetic
intentions that underlie
it. Moreover,
the following
the social implications
of legal trans-
can be positive
as well as negative,
and that is why, as Nader
Grande emphasize, a careful contextual analysis of particular
cases is
Human rights
The impact of Western human rights discourse
the past 10 years
on local constructions of legality
and identity in
Bolivia has been significant.
in the late-1980s,
and continu-
ing through
the 1990s,
events in Bolivia
to form
the foun-
dation for this development.
there was a national debate in Bolivia
the mid- to late-1980s over the upcoming
500 years
This debate was accompanied
by the formation of new indigenous-rights
602 LAW
groups, and the strengthening of existing organizations with progressive or
radical tendencies, particularly the influential labor unions. The impact of
the new movement-framed now in terms of human rights and largely
united, something that is unusual for Bolivian social movements-was most
dramatically represented by the turbulent 1990 march by indigenous rights
groups from Trinidad to La Paz, an event that captivated the nation and
forced a national dialogue over the marchers'
demands, which were broad in
scope but linked to claims that "traditional"
authority structures should be
given legal effect at the national level, and rural lands should be protected
from the encroachment by large landowners and corporations, especially in
the Bolivian Amazon.
Probably the most striking and lasting effect of the resulting debates
over the march and related events was the widespread acceptance-even
among groups like the growing middle class, which had been traditionally
ambivalent6-of one of the debate's central premises: that there were dis-
tinct groups of Bolivians who should be defined as indigenous
Bolivians, and
that these groups had special rights as a result of this status. The working
definition of indigenous, and the rights that were felt by many people in
Bolivia to accompany this status, were not understood ambiguously or or-
ganically in most cases; rather, both were derived from specific international
charters or proclamations of relevant United Nations working bodies, like
the International Labor
Organization. The best example of this direct link is
Convention 169, a broad statement of principles created by the Interna-
tional Labor
Organization 1989. In 1991, Bolivia became one of the earliest
of only 14 countries to ratify the convention.7 Moreover, the package of
progressive reforms
developed by the Sanchez de Lozada
government during
the early and mid-1990s-especially "Popular
and the Law of
Educational Reform-was a specific attempt to put the ideas of interna-
tional charters like Convention 169 into practice.
Second, as I have already described, the late-1980s and 1990s saw the
arrival of the NGOs. Although nongovernmental organizations like the
Rockefeller Foundation had turned their attention toward Latin America as
early as the Green Revolution of the 1960s, NGOs intent on helping local
populations "develop" did not turn their full attention toward rural Bolivia
until the late-1980s. Many of the most active NGOs in the region, espe-
cially in the mid- to late-1990s, consciously reformulated the approach of
earlier organizations in that they purported to adopt "indigenous knowl-
6. Other segments of Bolivian society-especially the army and the financial elite-
remained hostile to the upsurge in indigenous mobilization because of its obvious threat to
either social stability (for the army) or economic stability (for the moneyed classes).
7. The countries that have ratified Convention 169 as of 2000 are the following: Mexico
(1990), Norway (1990), Bolivia (1991), Colombia (1991), Costa Rica (1993), Paraguay
(1994), Peru (1994), Honduras (1995), Denmark (1996), Guatemala (1996), Ecuador (1998),
Fiji (1998), Netherlands (1998), and Argentina (2000) (
Globalization of Sympathetic
Law 603
edge" regimes into their local planning strategies. This was indeed a striking
from earlier waves of NGO activity, which were typically seen by
local people in the province as patronizing, unidirectional, and misguided.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, NGOs became more self-consciously collabo-
rative by hiring local leaders to participate in decision making over resource
allocation. Further, development activities were often preceded by initial
meetings between NGO workers and local leaders that were intended to
place the intentions of the organization within a specific human rights con-
text as defined in international charters.8
The arrival of NGOs to Alonso de Ibafiez
created a new and important
dynamic: the coupling of ideas that explicitly validated indigenous knowl-
edge and lifeways with a power structure that was clearly alternative and
superior to the government in terms of technological sophistication and ac-
cess to resources. The arrival of NGOs gave people in the villages a way to
bypass traditional networks of power and political influence through the use
of human rights doctrines as a way to shield themselves from the impact of
state law. But the NGOs also contributed to something of a shift in
worldview among villages that interacted with them. Local people, espe-
cially local intellectuals who worked closely with the NGOs, came to view
themselves within a much different context, one that contrasted sharply
from what came before. Before, they had held a model of the world reflected
in a national social hierarchy that was seen to be permanent and that ex-
isted to their clear disadvantage. Now, by contrast, they viewed the world as
one in which indigenous peoples had rights as indigenous
rights that
were validated by prestigious international organizations and bodies of law.
But the most concrete example I can offer regarding the impact of
human rights discourse in rural Bolivia was the Servicio
Legal Integral
or Center) that operated in Alonso de Ibafiez between 1995 and 1998. The
SLI, which was designed to introduce human rights in rural Bolivia, was
authorized by the Ministerio de Desarrollo Humano, Subsecretarfa
de Asun-
tos de Genero (SAG).9 Its goal was the protection of women's and chil-
8. I was present at several of these initial "context-building" meetings. Most of the offi-
cial descriptions by NGO leaders were simply versions of relevant portions of international
human rights charters, for example ILO 169, article 7, section 1, which reads: "1. The peoples
concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as
it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or
otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social
and cultural development. In addition, they shall participate in the formulation, implementa-
tion and evaluation of plans and programmes for national and regional development which
may affect them directly."
9. Law 1493 (17 September 1993), a law passed through Bolivia's executive branch,
created the Ministry of Human Development. Article 71, no. 5 of Supreme Decree 23660 (12
October 1993) created the National Secretariat for Ethnic and Gender Issues. Articles 85, 86,
and 87 of this same supreme decree created the Subsecretariat for Gender Issues responsible
for all political matters related to women. The Ministry of Human Development, in Resolu-
tion 139/94 (21 September 1994), adopted the National Plan for the Eradication, Prevention,
and Punishment of Violence against Women. Article 1 of this resolution created the system
dren's rights as defined by international human rights doctrines. The
Claretian Church in Alonso de Ibafiez, which is run by Basques from Spain
and which receives funding and support from the European Union, made
the formal application to La Paz. When the approval was given, they were
designated as the managing agency. They also provided initial funding for
the Center, along with UNICEF. While it was open, it had a staff of two:
Lucio Montesinos, the only titled lawyer in the province, who served as
director and lawyer, and an assistant, who moved to the province from La
Paz. She was a young university graduate in forestry who had an interest in
human rights and in particular the rights of women and children. She had
many duties at the Center-which was located in a two-story house in the
provincial capital's plaza-including processing new arrivals, giving advice
and counseling to women who decided to stay at the Center, and in general,
serving as a house mother to the group that was living at the Center at any
one time. She was also responsible for maintaining legal records related to
the Center's activities.
Montesinos worked with the assistant during interviews of new arriv-
als. He was responsible for all legal functions of the Center including giving
legal advice to women who came to the Center for help, making decisions
regarding the validity of cases at intake interviews, planning legal strategies
for cases that were deemed worthy of prosecution, and finally, prosecuting
cases in the local state law court system. As preparation for this new role,
Montesinos had traveled to La Paz to receive extensive training in human
rights and family law. The Center only handled cases that fell within the
Center's mandate; normal criminal or civil cases were not processed. Besides
serving as a legal resources center for women and children in the province,
however, the SLI was also a refuge for women who were fleeing from abu-
sive home environments. Over the course of three years, women arrived at
the Center in large numbers from the more than 100 villages spread
throughout the province.
But apart from its practical impact, the presence of the Center led to
fundamental changes in local legal consciousness and identity. Women in
the province had certainly never considered the fact that they might have
formally recognized legal rights as women, not to mention the possibility
that a state-sanctioned entity existed to safeguard
these rights. Beginning in
the 1970s, women in many of Bolivia's mining centers became politically
active within the context of the growing international women's movement
(see Barrrios de Chungara 1978), but this movement never appeared to
have an impact in Alonso de Ibafiez. Traditionally, women have been
of Servicios
to carry out the resolution's objectives. Law 1674 (1995), passed
by the Bolivian congress, outlined the nature and function of the SLIs and authorized their
establishment. In practice, SLIs can only be established after a formal application is made on
behalf of a municipality with the assurance that supplemental funding will be provided.
of Sympathetic
Law 605
largely excluded from taking active, official political or legal roles (see
n.10). This is not to say that women do not exert influence unofficially, or
that they are not active legal actors; but the lack of formal opportunities to
serve in authority positions has meant that women have not had the same
exposure to wider political and legal ideas as men have, particularly men
who travel outside the province as part of union activities.
Thus, the sudden appearance of the SLI in Alonso de Ibafez in 1995
was a dramatic and singular event for people in the province. Besides its
legal functions, the Center allowed women and their children to, in effect,
live permanently there; part of the Center's funding included a subsidy for
food services, which were contracted out to an adjacent family, which
cooked for the women living at the Center. No time limits were imposed on
women and their children; the only restriction was that there had to be beds
for every adult. The maximum capacity was 70 women, and the Center
quickly filled up. It turned out that some of the women who stayed the
longest were the ones who had arrived the earliest; many stayed for more
than six months while their cases were processed in the local court. But
many women stayed at the Center even without actively pursuing their
cases; while women often misunderstood the legal aspects of their situations,
the fact that they could live in the provincial capital away from abusive
husbands or boyfriends meant that the Center's role became more complex
than first envisioned.
As can be seen, the Center had a positive effect for women in the
province even as it altered local gender relations in unpredictable ways.
This result supports Nader and Grande's position that dispute resolution
procedures that involve an appeal to international legal principles, even
short of actually using formal tribunals, can be effective for marginalized
people in certain contexts. Nevertheless, and this is a major complicating
factor, the absence of a formal arena will usually mean that the invocation
of human rights discourse by the marginalized will be fraught with uncer-
tainties. This is because the informal resort to human rights doctrines in
social contexts is made more effective by at least the presence of an availa-
ble legal forum that recognizes the legitimacy of such doctrines.
legality. The use of literate legal techniques by villages in re-
sponse to demands by NGOs and other international agencies is my final
example of the consequences of the globalization of sympathetic law. In
Alonso de Ibanez, archives are not maintained by villages, but rather by
men with political and legal authority.10
Decisions regarding archives de-
10. I use men here deliberately. Even though women are not prohibited from serving in
authority positions in rural Bolivia, it almost never happens. In 15 months I only found one
woman serving as an authority. She was middle aged and had never married, so she lived in
the village of her birth family (the villages are patrilocal, meaning men and women live in the
husband's village after marriage). One effect of this normal postmarital residence pattern is
pend on individuals and their knowledge
of legal/organizational
and their abilities with reading
and writing.
The archives
are in
most cases called cuadernos
de actas
or proceedings),
and they con-
tain information that reflects both political
and legal
These note-
books are used to record two types of events for the most part:
between members
of rural unions and the resolution
of disputes
members of the hamlets. This second
type of record,
which is a new type of
entry for villages,
contains information
the facts of disputes
their eventual
As the structures
of power
in the province undergo
the reasons
I have already
so too does the practice
of maintaining
Although archives
were used
before the appearance
of the NGOs
the 1990s,
their use and
have changed
There is
a trend toward
most NGOs work-
ing in the region
require village authorities
to create
lists of the number of
families in the hamlet,
of crops
of cultivated
fields, and, most important, records
of existing disputes.
take one example,
Concern International
(PCI), a USAID-funded
by ex-Peace Corps members
willing to perform
hamlets with food in exchange for "self-de-
which usually
the form
of road
But before PCI will give sacks of food, they demand
that the village
and describe
the legal rights
all negotiations
PCI representatives
and village authorities,
as well
as the number
of hours
by each man and the number
of men in-
volved in the work;
will not suffice.
the nature
of legal recording
in the hamlets,
this NGO pressure
has shifted social
tige to younger,
more literate
men, those who can comfortably
in spoken
and who, more important,
can learn the con-
ventions of Spanish
legal literacy.
The older
men, who hold the traditional
authority positions,
who are
in rank
in the authority
chy, are
often simply
by NGO workers,
of whom
do not speak
and who do not understand
the internal
and legal struc-
of power.
Thus, the insistent carrot-and-stick
by NGOs to
legality-making the provision
of food contingent
on the expansion
and novel uses of legal archives-has, among other things, inverted the
social hierarchy
in some villages
in rural
As these two examples
indicate, the effects of the implementation
law are highly contextual
and require
one context-gender relations-the appeal to human rights discourse
the Center undermined
in ways that
that married women are less likely to exert political and legal influence because they live in
the villages of their husbands' families.
Globalization of Sympathetic
Law 607
allowed women to advance their interests in positive ways, as Nader and
Grande predict. In the other context-the move toward literate legality-
the undermining of traditional structures
of political power seems to be has-
tening the demise of indigenous languages and privileging people who are
distinguished primarily by their swift embrace of the trappings of modernity.
Nader and Grande do not discuss whether, when accompanied by a
"careful study of social conditions," sympathetic legalities like ADR might
prove to be superior legal options for people given a choice between hege-
monic, preexisting state law and these alternatives. It is, for example, very
difficult to say for certain that a rights-based forum will always prove more
effective for marginalized claimants than the interest-based methods of
ADR, or whether the informal invocation of formal law principles such as
human rights discourse might in some cases by itself bring about positive
social change. In my experience, peasant farmers in rural
Bolivia prove quite
adept at using the variety of legal forums at their disposal in order to strate-
gically advance their interests. On occasion, depending on the (usually po-
litical) circumstances, parties will opt for the local state law court; at other
times, they choose to remain in their villages in order to have the dispute
mediated. And, indeed, therein lies the crux of the dilemma: It is impossible
to know in advance what the consequences for people will be who find
themselves at the receiving end of the global ADR revolution.
The research narrative from rural Bolivia, in which I examined devel-
opments similar to the trend toward the imposition of ADR, indicates that
the results there would be mixed. Although the long-term impact on gender
relations is difficult to assess, it is easy to see-at least in the short term-
that hundreds of women felt empowered in ways that had not been possible
before. With the case of the insistence on literate legal techniques by
NGOs, the results are much clearer. The system of traditional authority
positions has been further damaged because of the sudden ascendance of a
class of young and inexperienced men who are able to adopt the conven-
tions of literate legality much easier than can older, more respected men.
While this development might seem emancipatory to a certain extent, the
deeper consequences are serious. The older men who occupy the ayllu au-
thority positions are the traditional representatives of their villages in deal-
ings with the province and the Bolivian nation-state. Indeed, their primary
role has been to protect local interests, and they have needed all the bene-
fits that experience brings to do this. Thus, now that the youngest adult
men in villages are seen in the eyes of NGOs and, increasingly, the Bolivian
state to be the real intermediaries, village interests will likely not be repre-
sented as effectively.
608 LAW
In any case, what Nader and Grande teach us above all is that we
cannot always trust our best instincts when thinking about, or implement-
ing, legal theories and practices that claim to lead to humanitarian, social
reformist, or counter-hegemonic results. Instead, we must anchor our claims
in careful analysis of messy, everyday law-in-action, as it unfolds in the le-
gally plural postcolonial world, and elsewhere.
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