Merry, Sally Engle 1944-
Merry, Sally Engle 1944-
Born December 1, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA: daughter of Robert Fry and Mary Doris Engle; married Paul Henry Merry, June 4, 1967; children: Joshua, Sarah. Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1966; Yale University, M.A., 1967; Brandeis University, Ph.D., 1978.
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, assistant professor, 1977-83, associate professor, 1983-90, professor of anthropology, beginning 1990, Class of 1949 Professor in Ethics, 1994-99, Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas, beginning 2003; New York University, New York, NY, currently professor of anthropology and of law and society. Research associate in anthropology, Foreign Area Studies, 1969-70; distinguished visiting scholar, Arizona State University, 1987; visiting professor, Amherst College, 1993; fellow, Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, 1994-95; visiting research fellow, American Bar Foundation, 1999; fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2001-02; visiting scholar, Sociology of Law in China, Renmin University, Beijing, 2001.
American Anthropological Association, Law and Society Association (president, 1993-95).
Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Wellesley College, 1994; James Willard Hurst Prize in Legal History, Law and Society Association, 2002, Colonizing Hawaii: The Cultural Power of Law; Presidential Award, American Anthropological Association, 2003; Kalven Prize, Law and Society Association, 2007. Fellow, NIHM, 1972-73, 1975-76, National Science Foundation, 1966-67, 1986-87, and 1991-93, Ford Foundation, 1988-89, American Council of Learned Societies, 1988, W.T. Grant Foundation, 1981-85, National Institute of Justice, 1980-83.
Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1981.
Getting Justice and Getting Even: Legal Consciousness among Working-class Americans, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.
Colonizing Hawaii: The Cultural Power of Law, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.
(Editor, with Donald Brenneis) Law and Empire in the Pacific: Fiji and Hawaii, School of American Research Press (Santa Fe, NM), 2004.
Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2006.
The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law between the Global and the Local, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective, Blackwell Pub. (Malden, MA), 2009.
Also contributor to books, including The Politics of Informal Justice, Volume II: Comparative Studies, edited by Richard L. Abel, Academic Press (New York, NY), 1982; African Women and the Law: Historical Perspectives, edited by M. Wright and M. Hay, Papers on Africa, Volume VI, Boston University African Studies Center, 1982; Neighborhood Justice: Assessment of an Emerging Idea, edited by Malcom Feeley and Roman Tomasic, Longman (New York, NY), 1982; Cities and the 21st Century, edited by Gary Gappert and Richard V. Knight, 23rd Urban Affairs Annual, Sage Publications (Beverly Hills, CA), 1982; Toward a General Theory of Social Control, Volume II, edited by Donald Black, Academic Press (New York, NY), 1984; Dispute Resolution and Lawyers, edited by James Westbrook and Leonard Riskin, West Publishing Co., 1987; Neighborhood and Community Environments, edited by Irwin Altman and Abraham Wandersman, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1987; Dispute Resolution and Lawyers, edited by Alan Scott Rau, Edward Sherman, John Murray, Foundation Press, 1988; Mediation and Criminal Justice: Victims, Offenders, and Community, edited by Martin Wright and Burt Galaway, Sage (London, England), 1988; The Mediation of Disputes: Empirical Studies in the Resolution of Social Conflict, edited by Ken Kressel and Dean Pruitt, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 1989; Access to Civil Justice, edited by Allan C. Hutchinson, Carswell (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1990; The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, edited by Tom D. Campbell, Dartmouth Publishing Co. (Hampshire, England), 1991; Social Control: Aspects of Non-state Justice, edited by Stuart Henry, Dartmouth Publishing Co. (Hampshire, England), 1994; Law and Society, edited by Roger Cotterrell, Dartmouth Publishing Co. (Aldershot, England), 1994; When Talk Works: Profiles of Master Mediators, edited by Deborah Kolb, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 1994; Contested States: Law, Hegemony, and Resistance, edited by Susan Hirsch and Mindie Lazarus-Black, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994; Urban Life: Readings in Urban Anthropology, edited by George Gmelch and Walter Zenner, Waveland Press, 1995; The Law and Society Reader, edited by Richard L. Abel, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1995; Alternative Dispute Resolution: Cases, Materials, and Problems, edited by Wendy Trachte-Huber and Stephen Huber, Anderson Publishing Company, 1996; Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Enforcement of Good Behavior, edited by Daniel Klein, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1996; Human Rights, Culture and Context: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Richard Wilson, Pluto Press, 1997; Before the Law, edited by Katsh Bonsignore, Pipkin d'Errico, Arons, and Rifkin, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997; Everyday Practices and Trouble Cases, edited by Austin Sarat, Northwestern University Press (Chicago, IL), 1998; Governable Places: Readings on Governmentality and Crime Control, edited by Russell Smandych, Ashgate/Dartmouth (Aldershot, England), 1999; Mediation: Theory, Policy and Practice, edited by Carrie Menkel-Meadow, International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, 2nd series, Ashgate Publishing (Aldershot, England), 2000; Globalizing Institutions: Case Studies in Regulation and Innovation, edited by Jane Jenson and Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Ashgate/Dartmouth (Aldershot, England), 2000; From the Ground Up, edited by John Paul Lederach and Cynthia Sampson, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000; Cultural Diversity in the United States: A Critical Reader, edited by Ida Susser and Thomas C. Patterson, Blackwell Publishers (New York, NY), 2001; Materials on Mediation Theory and Practice, edited by James Alfini, Sharon P. Press, Jean R. Sterlight, and Joseph B. Stulberg, Matthew Bender and Co., Inc. (New York, NY), 2001; Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Jane Cowan, Marie-Benedicte Dembour, and Richard A. Wilson, Cambridge University Press (London, England), 2001; Women, Gender, and Human Rights: A Global Perspective, edited by Margery Agosin, Rutgers University Press, (New Brunswick, NJ), 2001; International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, edited by N.J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, Pergamon (Oxford, England), 2001; Law and Anthropology, edited by Martha Mundy, Ashgate Publishing (Aldershot, England), 2002; Practicing Ethnography in Law: New Dialogues, Enduring Methods, edited by June Starr and Mark Goodale, Palgrave/ St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2002; Criminological Perspectives: A Reader, 2nd edition, edited by Eugene McLaughlin, John Muncie, and Gordon Hughes, Sage Publications, 2003; Globalization under Construction: Governmentality, Law, and Identity, edited by Richard Warren Perry and Bill Maurer, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2003; Law and Anthropology: A Reader, edited by Sally Falk Moore, Blackwell (London, England), 2004; The Blackwell Companion to Law and Society, edited by Austin Sarat, Blackwell Publishing (London, England), 2004; The Social Organization of Law: An Introduction, edited by Austin Sarat, Roxbury Publishing Co. (Los Angeles, CA). 2004; The Globalization of Justice, edited by Paul Schiff Berman, Ashgate Publishing Co. (Aldershot, England), 2005; Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition, 6th edition, edited by Emily Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005; Mobile People, Mobile Law: Expanding Legal Relations in a Contracting World, edited by Franz von Benda Beckman, Keebet von Benda Beckman, and Anne Griffiths, Ashgate (Aldershot, England), 2005.
Book reviewer, American Anthropologist, Journal of Legal Pluralism, Qualitative Sociology, Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Newsletter, American Historical Review, and National Forum. Member of editorial board, Law and Society Review, 1985—, Mediation Quarterly, 1988—, Journal of Legal Pluralism, 1990—, and Negotiation Journal, 1990; contributor of articles to professional journals.
Anthropologist and legal scholar Sally Engle Merry studies human rights and concepts of justice on an international level. Merry had a long career at Wellesley College, concluding her tenure there as the Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas, before coming to New York University. Her area of focus is human rights in general and the rights of women in particular; her books on the subject include Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers, Getting Justice and Getting Even: Legal Consciousness among Working-class Americans, Colonizing Hawaii: The Cultural Power of Law, Law and Empire in the Pacific: Fiji and Hawaii, and Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice. "Her current work," according to her profile on the Wellesley College Anthropology Department Web site, "explores how international human rights law is interpreted in China, India, Nigeria, and Peru."
The topic of human rights is ideally suited for investigation by an anthropologist with a strong interest in the law, like Merry. Modern Western thinkers have, for more than two hundred years, insisted that human rights are universal: that they apply to all people at all times, regardless of the cultures and societies from which those people come. Non-Westerners, however, say that "universal human rights" are a Western concept, invented and propagated by Westerners, and that to force those ideas on non-Western societies is a form of cultural imperialism. So the question for anthropologists is whether there is such a thing as a universal law, or whether it is an artifact of a Western way of thinking. These questions are just as important for lawyers as they are for anthropologists, according to Merry, because these Western concepts underlie most legal systems around the world, thanks to global empires that dominated world politics from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries.
Merry's contribution to Law and Empire in the Pacific, which she edited with Donald Brenneis, demonstrates the relationship between imperialism and law, and the imposition of Western ideas on non-Western societies. The volume centers on concepts of "the ways in which British and American colonial ideas of law (and the consequences of these ideologies on institutions, on concepts of rights and citizenship, and on political possibilities) radically reshaped the pre-colonial social institutions (including chieftainship, land-holding, gender, and cultural practices)," explained John Clammer in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Colonial governments (American in Hawaii, British in Fiji) tried to redefine traditional concepts of law and social order to benefit themselves at the expense of local governments led by chiefs. "Faced with the prospect of transforming the indigenous people into labourers, both colonial governments initially imported Asian indentured labourers to fashion a labour force more to their liking," said Ilana Gershon in her Pacific Affairs review. "At the same time, they made various alliances with the indigenous people to circumscribe the Asian labourers' capacity to become political unities to be reckoned with." "Such transformations in turn," Clammer concluded, "created the framework in which issues of race, rights, indigenous sovereignty, cultural expression, and political participation are still being worked out."
It is important to note that, in Merry's analysis, law—even in a colonial context—is never something that is only imposed from above. There is always some type of accommodation in the native culture that accepts, at least to some extent, the overarching concepts of foreign law. In Colonizing Hawaii, Merry suggests that the transformation brought about by American colonists was not just the imposition of one concept of law and order on another, but a matter of accommodation between two different, but not uncomplimentary, systems. "The Hawaiian Kingdom is the arena where European and American (haole) ideas and practices confronted the Native Hawaiian, and Merry is clear that the result of the confrontation was an ambiguous blend of responses in which Hawaiians altered their identities, conforming to the ideas of civilization while resisting colonization itself," explained Jon Kamakawiwo'ole Osorio, writing in Contemporary Pacific. "Along the way the author presents intriguing analyses of the legal system as a ‘site of power’ wherein a different kind of discipline emerged from what had been in place before contact, namely a discipline that was self-imposed and self-correcting." Merry suggests that American imperialists drew on nineteenth-century racist concepts of native peoples as culturally and individually immature to justify imposing and maintaining control. "In the end, she concludes that law provided both the means of domination and the opportunity for resistance, not unlike Marx's view of industrialism," Osorio concluded, "adding a more penetrating look at the nature of labor relations and a far more intriguing thesis on human relations of race and sex than anything previously published about Hawaii."
Human Rights and Gender Violence, wrote Kimberly Hutchings in Ethics & International Affairs, "brings a much-needed anthropological sensitivity to the complex question of the relation between cosmopolitan norms embedded in human rights and the particularities of local cultural practices." In the book, declared Jane K. Cowan, writing for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, "the author … moves between international conferences and working groups in Geneva, Beijing, and New York, police-run conciliation in Delhi for domestic violence and dowry conflict, women's organizations in Fiji, and a mobilization of disinherited female peasants in Hong Kong." Merry argues that human rights have universality because the definition of "culture" is a fluid one; cultures, the New York University anthropologist suggests, are not static entities. They are instead groups of behaviors that constantly change in response to internal and external stimuli. However, the basic problem, Merry declares, is that, "in order to be effective, human rights must be adapted to local contexts," Cowan stated, "yet to vernacularize them fully is to undermine their power to challenge local hierarchies." As a result, the human-rights argument can be adopted or rejected by women's rights workers, depending on circumstances. Merry's book, Hutchings concluded, "makes a valuable contribution to our thinking about international human rights, both because it examines in empirical detail the interaction between the transnational culture of human rights and alternative cultural discourses in specific contexts, and because it acts as a corrective to oversimplified assumptions about the meaning of international human rights and the meaning of culture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, December 1, 1991, Randy Kandel, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even: Legal Consciousness among Working-class Americans, p. 954.
American Ethnologist, August 1, 1992, June Starr, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 633; May 1, 1995, Susan Coutin, review of The Possibility of Popular Justice: A Case Study of Community Mediation in the United States, p. 446.
American Historical Review, June 1, 2005, Judith Schachter, review of Law and Empire in the Pacific: Fiji and Hawaii, p. 780.
American Journal of Sociology, July 1, 1991, Mark D. Jacobs, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 267; March 1, 2007, Elizabeth Heger Boyle, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice, p. 1574.
American Political Science Review, March 1, 1992, M.A. Bortner, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 248.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May 1, 1994, Robert Lilienfeld, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 210.
Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, January 1, 2006, Elena Christine Acevedo, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 241.
Canadian Journal of Criminology, July 1, 1992, Joanne Fiske, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even.
Canadian Journal of Law and Society, January 1, 1992, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 265; spring, 2000, Yvan Simonis, review of Colonizing Hawaii: The Cultural Power of Law, p. 247.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May 1, 1994, R.H. Leach, review of The Possibility of Popular Justice, p. 1505; December 1, 2004, A. Arno, review of Law and Empire in the Pacific, p. 715.
Christian Century, November 18, 1981, Rosemary Booth, review of Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers, p. 1206.
Contemporary Pacific, fall, 2001, Jon Kamaka wiwo'ole Osorio, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 574.
Contemporary Sociology, January 1, 2007, Stacy K. McGoldrick, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 91.
Crime and Delinquency, October 1, 1982, James Garofalo, review of Urban Danger, p. 657.
Ethics & International Affairs, September 1, 2006, Kimberly Hutchings, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 390.
Federal Lawyer, January 1, 1997, Barbara Clay, review of The Possibility of Popular Justice, p. 61.
Human Rights Quarterly, November 1, 2006, Angelita D. Reyes, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 1088.
International Journal of the Sociology of Law, September 1, 1996, Adam Crawford, review of The Possibility of Popular Justice, p. 342.
Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, January 1, 1992, David M. Engel, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 155.
Journal of Pacific History, December 1, 2004, Christine Stewart, review of Law and Empire in the Pacific, p. 379.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March 1, 2005, John Clammer, review of Law and Empire in the Pacific, p. 159; June 1, 2007, Jane K. Cowan, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 495.
Law and Politics Book Review, December 1, 2006, David Mednicoff, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 944.
Law and Social Inquiry, fall, 1992, Susan F. Hirsch, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 839; summer, 1996, Robert A. Baruch Bush, review of The Possibility of Popular Justice, p. 715; spring, 2003, Arthur L. Stinchcombe, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 591.
Law & Society Review, May 1, 1992, Elizabeth Mertz, review of Getting Justice and Getting Even, p. 413; December 1, 2004, Kunal M. Parker, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 851; December 1, 2004, Martha Merrill Umphrey, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 833; December 1, 2004, Bill Maurer, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 843; December 1, 2004, Lauren Benton, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 835; December 1, 2006, Mindie Lazarus-Black, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 979.
New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, fall, 2007, Carly Leinheiser, review of The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law between the Global and the Local, p. 323.
Pacific Affairs, June 22, 2005, Ilana Gershon, review of Law and Empire in the Pacific, p. 339.
Pacific Historical Review, February 1, 2002, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 130; February 1, 2002, Mary L. Dudziak, review of Colonizing Hawaii, p. 130.
Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2004, review of Law and Empire in the Pacific, p. 77; May 1, 2008, review of The Practice of Human Rights.
Social & Legal Studies, March 1, 2008, Vanessa E. Munro, review of Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 144.
Western Legal History, January 1, 2000, Robert McLaughlin, review of Colonizing Hawaii.
New York University Anthropology Department,http://www.nyu.edu/ (August 21, 2008), author profile.
Wellesley Centers for Women,http://www.wcwonline.org/ author profile.