Student Project: “Legal Pluralism” Art Piece

For this course’s final project I decided to focus on the topic of legal pluralism and chose to convey the message through a rendered 3D model. The model shows a glass cylinder, representing the diverse communities across the US, with its many colors and edges being pushed through a hole in the wall representing the State’s definition of justice, which ends up crushing it, stripping it of its unique shape, and conforming it into a rough material that fits the walls criteria, but emerging unrecognizable with many cracks and breaks. I am hoping this piece conveys the idea that legal pluralism is needed because the State’s definition of legal justice does not always fit every community and their unique situations. Currently “the justice to which we seek access is a product that is produced –or at least distributed– exclusively by the states” and leads to outcomes and results that those seeking justice do not agree with (Galanter, 1). Legal pluralism would by definition create a “a situation in which two or more legal systems coexist in the same social field” meaning that justice could come from a more recognizable source that applies to specific communities (Merry, 870). An example I believe that proves the need for legal pluralism, how the State’s form of justice produces unwanted results, and how community law could be more effective in specific scenarios would be the Violence Against Women Act. The act, along with the intervention of the criminal legal system, has led to results of people’s “children being removed from their care, or that their partners have been arrested and convicted against their wishes”, and even victims being arrested for intimate partner violence (Does the VAWA Actually Prevent Violence?, 4:15-4:21). Another example with a system of community law in place would be the Safer Party Toolkit, which is a “collection of strategies generated by three generations of SOS (Safer Outside the System Collective) members and staff to build safety in party spaces without relying on the police or state systems” (The Safer Party Toolkit, 174). This toolkit provides instructions on how to prevent and defuse violent situations and interactions at parties and large gatherings, in order to prevent interactions with police, which can often lead to a bigger and more damaging situation than the parties involved want. This form of community law keeps the conflict within the group, and demonstrates how there is no need for outside interference from law enforcement or any other form of state jurisdiction. Providing groups with a sort of community law would allow them to receive the justice and results they truly need rather than turning solely to the criminal justice system and coming out rough and broken from results many believe can be ultimately avoided.

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