In Pursuit of Right, Justice, and Peace: Ordinary Litigants and the Making of Uganda’s Legal Culture, ca. 1900-1970


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project charts the evolution of Uganda’s legal culture, focusing on local legal practice. The British legal enactments and appellant decisions–widely assumed in the historiography to be unquestionably authoritative–emerged within a decentralized system where local courts did most of the work of law enforcement and administration of justice. Recovering the importance of localized legal practice places ordinary people at the center of law and order since local courts relied on people’s local knowledge to resolve disputes.The project draws on previously unexplored archival court records to argue that ordinary people occupied acknowledged spaces in law and even shaped its content and application by bringing their ideas, attitudes, everyday life experiences, and local evidentiary practices into legal practice. The thesis offers a historical account of how, between 1900-1970, ordinary people debated and imagined law, justice, right, and peace and offered alternative definitions to the narrow categorizations envisioned by the colonial state.