Research Agenda

The Käte Hamburger Kolleg ‘Legal Unity and Pluralism’ examines phenomena of unresolved simultaneity of legal unity and pluralism from a genuinely historical perspective. Our hypothesis is that legal pluralism should not be regarded as a sign of deficient law or a dysfunctional legal praxis (of earlier historical periods) but as a structural characteristic of law per se. The corresponding tendency to standardize and unify law in all cultures throughout history may seem paradoxical at first sight and this tension-laden dynamic between unity and pluralism requires new scholarly assessment. The project opens up unusual perspectives on the understanding of law and society in general and the (legal) ways of dealing with forms of cultural diversity in particular.

There is currently no model that permits an adequate assessment of legal unity and pluralism in its cultural polymorphy. The goal of the Kolleg is to develop and to test a historically informed descriptive and analytical model in a cooperation between the Fellows and the Münster scholars.

In this manner, we will assess the interrelations of legal unity and pluralism afresh and offer a new analytical approach to diverse phenomena of coexistence for discussion.

Johann Rudolf Schellenberg, GrundSaz der Rechtsgelehrtheit (1777), Zentralbibliothek Zürich