Amammerɛ ne Amanneɛ: Towards the indigenisation of the sociology of law concept of norms

University essay from Lunds universitet/Rättssociologiska institutionen

Abstract: The global coverage of sociology of law (SoL) has remained limited to the Western world, due to the difficult and problematic application of its current theories and concepts in non-Western societies. Thus, the sociology of law norm concept was studied in relation to the culture of Ashanti people of Ghana. This was done to identify and valorise culturally specific issues of their society that are relevant when employing the socio-legal concept. After a 5-week ethnographic study, the Ashanti conceptualisation of norms was explored and contrasted with the sociology of law norm concept, to unearth relevant culturally specific issues. The study found that, a direct lexical translation of the word (norm) from English into the Ashanti-Twi does not exist. However, the Ashanti concepts of Amammerɛ (tradition) and Amanneɛ (custom) showed to be closest to the sociology of law concept. However, contrasting them to the essences of norms developed by Hydén and Svensson, unearthed “the role and expectations of ancestors and gods” as an accidental attribute of these Ashanti concepts, making them specific types of norm, rather than norm itself. Consequently, the new Ashanti-Twi word “saayɔ” was coined to evanesce the accidental attributes of the Ashanti concepts and represent a more accurate translation of Hydén and Svensson’s SoL norm concept. This accidental attribute highlights an important culturally specific issue crucial to the application of this SoL norm concept in Ghana, and also points to the Eurocentrism in Hydén and Svensson’s norm concept. It shows that, what makes Hydén and Svensson’s (2008) conceptualisation Eurocentric, is the fact that, to a large extent, it was developed within the perceptive framework of a utilitarian thinking society where individuals possess scientific mentality and are free from culture, religion, and ideology. That is, the First and “natural” world. In fact, the accidental attributes of the Ashanti amammerɛ and amanneɛ type of norms, was found to exert relatively high levels of fear among people, making them more likely to conform to them, and more difficult for people to accept new contradictory norms. Therefore, it is very important for socio-legal researchers who employ this SoL norm concept in the Ashanti-Akan society, to be wary of this culturally specific attribute which characterizes the Ashanti specific type of norms. It is only when the user of the SoL norm concept disregards this, that the application of the concept will be problematic.

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