oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Indigenous law and narrative: rethinking methodology

Volume 32, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



For as long as indigenous law has been studied, there has been difference of opinion with regard to research methodology in this field of law. The conflict ranges between, on the one hand, the behavioural approach to the study of indigenous law (the trouble-case method in which court cases are studied or the daily life of indigenous communities is observed) and, on the other hand, the rule-centred approach which focuses on a framework of western concepts and ideas in an explanation of indigenous law. The first method focuses on facts, the second on rules. Both reflect a partial and constructed reality of African culture and law. But whether the knowledge of indigenous law found in the literature has been obtained through a trouble-case method, or a rule-centred approach, it remains, to a large extent, a western perception of either facts or rules. The rule-centred approach is the more popular and is also the approach followed by the courts.

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