Welcome to the new issue of the Journal of the Oxford Center for Socio-Legal Studies (JOxCSLS). This issue builds on the OSLR-project which was initiated by Oxford post-graduate law students in 2010, but it seeks to go new ways. At first glance, this new approach is reflected in the Journal’s new form. The JOxCSLS comes with a fresh design, which emphasises our goal to make our Journal an easily-enjoyable and accessible read. We also strike a new path in the choice of the content by combining rigorous, peer-reviewed socio-legal research with a lighter look ‘behind the scenes’ of the socio-legal world.
That said, you will still find what you would expect from an academic journal. The JOxCSLS will continue to feature peer-reviewed articles which cover a broad range of socio-legal topics. Each issue will also contain book reviews. Beyond this rather typical canon, however, we want to explore the socio-legal world in new and hopefully surprising ways. In this sense, the JOxCSLS remains a classic with a facelift.
In this issue three peer-reviewed contributions form the classic academic core. Po-Hsiang Ou heads us off with an empirical exploration of inter-expert risk communication in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). He uncovers, through interviews and archive work, how a ‘club network’ of policy makers strategically adopt an optimistic culture of risk regulation with regards to fiscal rules. He shows how the ‘technical inputs’ provided by EMU economic experts are always to some extent ‘mixed with political judgement’. David Kwok then describes the encounter of two very different worlds of ‘legal culture’ in 19th century Hong Kong. He traces the ‘long and arduous process’ in which the English adversarial legal system sunk into a society which was previously governed by a Chinese mediatory approach to justice. Finally, Pedro Rubim Borges Fortes analyses the shortcomings of the Brazilian collective litigation system, whose lack of economic sanctions induces private companies to pursue strategies of ‘lucrative illegality’. Based on observation of 405 collective actions and 10 interviews with relevant legal actors, he offers an empirically-based argument in favor of optimal economic deterrence.
The three ‘lighter’ sections of our Journal will illuminate some of the paths which lead to such socio-legal findings. Discovering law’s connections with wider social, political, historical or cultural forces means keeping one’s eyes and ears open to the world.
We included the section ‘Of Law and Society Today’ to sharpen our reader’s eye for the socio-legal relevance of current societal debates. In this issue, M.Bob Kao revisits the United States Supreme Court’s recent landmark Obergefell v Hodges decision on marriage rights for same-sex couples and its potential impact on Taiwan’s jurisprudence. Inspiration should be drawn, Bob argues, not so much from the legal arguments employed in the judgement but rather from how non-legal strategies were coordinated and strategically employed to persuade opponents and doubters.
Socio-legal questions often emerge at unexpected instances – they can be found in the visual arts, in music, in architecture, or in everyday objects. The JOxCSLS now offers some space for such socio-legal observations. In the section ‘Socio-Legal Objects?’, Friso Jansen finds socio-legal inspiration in blood-glucose meters.
Socio-legal research usually requires empirical methodology. We already have a wealth of journals and books dealing with research design and methodology at hand. Few scholars, however, tell us what it is actually like to do socio-legal research. The new OSLR seeks to close this gap. We are now tapping the ‘Wire from the Field’, through which our contributors share some more personal insights into the practice of fieldwork. Such first-hand accounts go beyond common questions of methodology by telling stories about the challenges and the joys of fieldwork. In this issue, Michael Kebede reports from Ethiopia where he investigated the work of Sharia Courts.
In changing the format and style of the JOxCSLS, we hope not only to offer an enjoyable and inspiring read for the library halls, but it should also be a good companion for the morning coffee. While maintaining high academic standards, we want to further promote this ‘view behind the scenes’ of socio-legal studies in the future and thereby open up new avenues for innovative research. We very much hope that this issue will be a source of inspiration for many of our readers. In this spirit, we invite you to join us in exploring the socio-legal world and look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions.
Felix-Anselm van Lier, Matilde Gawronski and Friso Jansen