Ringvorlesung "Translating Normativity: New Perspectives on Law and Legal Transfers"


  • Start: Dec 4, 2014
  • End: Feb 5, 2015
  • Host: The Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” in cooperation with the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History

Throughout history, law and legal knowledge were circulating between cultures, countries, and continents. Sometimes willingly adopted, sometimes forcefully imposed by powers from outside, the process of dealing with foreign law often changed not only the sources of law, but a whole structure of normative thinking. One might think of the reception of Roman law in Europe during the Middle Ages, the formation of derecho indiano in early modern Hispano-America or the adoption of European law in East Asia during the 19th century. In recent years, such processes could be observed in states in transition, for example in Eastern Europe.

As most normative orders, law is not only produced by politics, but it is rooted in language and traditions. Is it actually possible to translate norms? What happens when they are taken up by a different culture, having to operate in another language? How does their meaning shift during these processes, how do their function and even their normativity change?

The lecture series, which will try to find answers to these questions, is inspired by the concept of “cultural translation”. This term aims to supersede the notion of a linear give-and-take; instead, it emphasizes interactions and intermediate areas, internal dynamics, resistance and the “agency” of the actors. In a critical reflection of the traditional Eurocentric perspective, the concept of “translation” reminds us how complex, intertwined, and contested the adoption and re-production of foreign norms might be.

We do not only focus on legal normativity. While one lecture will explicitly discuss the translatability of law and legal norms, the other lectures shall deal with different forms of normativity as to be found in political concepts, religion and technology. Broadening the view in this way should enable us to compare normative orders and to examine how cultural translation actually “worked” in different fields. This might, eventually, produce a profounder understanding not only of law but also of normativity in general.

Prof. Thomas Duve
Dr. Lena Foljanty


December 4, 2014, 18 h
Simone Glanert (Kent Law School)

One European privat law, more than one language: in vidication of Goethe

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Campus Westend,
Renate-von-Metzler-Saal, Casino, Cas. 1801

December 16, 2014, 18 h
Dagmar Schäfer (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte)

Das ethische Produkt, oder wie man Moral in Material übersetzt. Regeln für Herrscher von Qui Jun (1421-1495)

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Campus Westend,
Hörsaalzentrum, HZ10

January 20, 2015, 18 h
Javier Fernández Sebastián (Universidad del Pais Vasco)

Translating political vocabularies in the Iberian Atlantic. Historical semantics and conceptual transfers

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Campus Westend,
Hörsaalzentrum, HZ11

February 5, 2015, 18 h
Peter Burke (Cambridge)

Translating norms: strengths and weaknesses of a concept

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Campus Westend,
Renate-von-Metzler-Saal, Casino, Cas. 1801

Go to Editor View