Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

For over forty years the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies has been at the forefront of research into the nature and role of law in society. More than a dozen researchers combine multi-disciplinary expertise.

Links with leading scholars in the Faculty of Law and throughout the University enhance the breadth of the Centre’s research and the resources available to both doctoral students and research staff.

Law is approached as a historical and culturally specific mode of social organisation, taking different forms within and across different types of society. Looking beyond the modern west, as well as within it, the Centre’s researchers examine the nature and role of law in a variety of social and cultural contexts, including international settings. Their multi-disciplinary expertise is often applied in comparative and cross-cultural inquiries.

An evolving group of scholars is currently concerned with the social foundations of constitutions, economic and environmental regulation, the changing nature of civil justice, developments in media law, historical legalism, local attitudes to law, and studies in Russia, China, the Far East, and East Africa. This takes them to the heart of many contemporary social and political issues, including legal development and innovation, the expansion of trade and media, human rights, transitional justice, and migration. Historical analysis adds further perspectives.

The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies is home to a large group of graduate students.  Many of their projects involve either the processes of transitional justice or an aspect of law in the context of conflicts.

In her DPhil project Matilde Gawronski is researching international criminal justice and asking whether it can foster the transition from war to peace through the mechanisms of legal redress. The focus of her scrutiny is Uganda.  A civil war there from 1986 to 2008 was followed by a 'failed' peace process, with consequences that are still strongly felt by the population of Northern Uganda.  She is finding that both the impact and the value of international prosecutions still remain unclear.

Felix Anselm, who is also reading for a DPhil degree, is examining the ongoing constitution-making process in Libya. He has interviewed the members of the Libyan Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) as well as a broad range of experts, officials and local civil society organisations in both Libya and Tunisia. His case study allows for new perspectives on whether a constitution-making process can contribute both to the short-term goal of conflict resolution and to the longer-term goal of building a viable state.  

Diana Daje's research focuses on the interaction between citizen participation, technology and peacebuilding in Colombia, using participatory budgeting as a case study. Diana has herself worked in peacebuilding in Colombia and Latin America for the past seven years, in various projects involving human rights, transitional justice, international law, and political and civic participation.

Elena Butti is conducting doctoral research on youth violence and involvement in criminal networks in the context of Colombia’s transition to peace. Her work explores the life experiences and perspectives of outcast male adolescents at the urban and semi-rural margins. Her methods are a combination of in-depth ethnography with participatory audiovisual methodologies. An example of these is the participatory documentary ‘Somos’ (trailer), where a group of youths share their life stories and views about peace. In Colombia, Elena has also collaborated with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). At Oxford, Elena is co-founder of the Oxford Children’s Rights Network, member of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research group and of the Oxford Network of Peace Studies.

For details of news and events at the Centre, please follow this link.