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Arguing with Tradition

The Language of Law in Hopi Tribal Court

Arguing with Tradition is the first book to explore language and interaction within a contemporary Native American legal system. Grounded in Justin Richland’s extensive field research on the Hopi Indian Nation of northeastern Arizona—on whose appellate court he now serves as Justice Pro Tempore—this innovative work explains how Hopi notions of tradition and culture shape and are shaped by the processes of Hopi jurisprudence.

Like many indigenous legal institutions across North America, the Hopi Tribal Court was created in the image of Anglo-American-style law. But Richland shows that in recent years, Hopi jurists and litigants have called for their courts to develop a jurisprudence that better reflects Hopi culture and traditions. Providing unprecedented insights into the Hopi and English courtroom interactions through which this conflict plays out, Richland argues that tensions between the language of Anglo-style law and Hopi tradition both drive Hopi jurisprudence and make it unique. Ultimately, Richland’s analyses of the language of Hopi law offer a fresh approach to the cultural politics that influence indigenous legal and governmental practices worldwide.

176 pages | 2 halftones, 2 maps, 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Chicago Series in Law and Society

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Culture Studies

Language and Linguistics: Language and Law

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Native American Studies


"[Richland] is committed to the basic idea that social realities are created in and through the process of face-to-face interaction. At the same time, he also draws on recent developments in linguistic anthropological analysis of language ideologies and semiotics in ways that alter our perspectives on legal discourse. . . . This is a terrific book. it is accessible to undergraduate and advanced scholar alike. And it can be used to adress a wide range of issues in sociolinguistic and anthropological scholarship in both teaching and research."

Language in Society

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations        
1 Introduction: Arguing with Tradition in Native America
   The Ironies of Indigeneity         
   Native American Tribal Law and Tradition       
   “Anglo” Law in Indian Country: Courts of Indian Offenses        
   Tribal Courts Today: At the Edge of Tribal Sovereignty
   The Dearth of Ethnographies of Tribal Courts   
   The Approach and Aims of This Study 
   An Outline of This Study          
2 Making a Hopi Nation: “Anglo” Law Comes to Hopi Country           
   Hopi Tribal Governance           
   Hopi Village Organization and Governance       
   Court Comes to Hopi Country 
   The Hopi Tribal Court Today   
   Data and Methodologies: Talking Tradition in Hopi Property Disputes  
3 “What are you going to do with the village’s knowledge?” Language Ideologies and Legal Power in Hopi Tribal Court           
   Legal Discourse Analysis and Legal Power
   Language Ideologies, Metadiscourse, and Metapragmatics
   Talking Tradition, Talking Law in Hopi Courtroom Interactions 
   The Language Ideologies of Anglo-American Law versus Hopi Traditional Authority
4 “He could not speak Hopi. . . . That puzzle— puzzled me”: The  Pragmatic Paradoxes of Hopi Tradition in Court       
   Paradox in the Pragmatics of Language and Law          
   Discourses of Cultural Difference in Hopi Court
   Iterations of Indigeneity in a Hopi Court Hearing
5 Suffering into Truth: Hopi Law as Narrative Interaction
   Legal Narrativity in and out of Court
   A Model of Hopi Law as Narrative Interaction
   The Significance of Settings: Judicial Openings of Hopi Courtroom Narrative
   The Contested Narrativity of a Hopi Property Proceeding
6 Conclusion: Arguments with Tradition
   Tradition, Culture, and the Politics of Authenticity
   Arguing with Tradition

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