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Annelise Riles

Professor of Law and of Anthropology; Jack G. Clarke Professor of Law in Far East Legal Studies; Director of the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture; founder and director of Meridian 180
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As an anthropologist, I am attracted to those subjects that seem most resistant to ethnographic study, and as a lawyer, I am committed to anthropology's unique contribution to contemporary legal, political and epistemological debates.  My legal scholarship focuses on the transnational dimensions of laws, markets and culture across the fields of comparative law, conflict of laws, the anthropology of law, public international law and international financial regulation. 

Ethnographic subjects that interest me include bureaucracies and institutions, law, markets, theories (from law to economics, science and gender) and modern knowledge of all kinds. These interests emerge out of my engagement with the remarkable contributions of feminist anthropology, the anthropology of science, and Melanesian anthropology to the anthropology of the contemporary. My first book, The Network Inside Out, concerned knowledge practices among UN bureaucrats and NGO activists working on "gender issues" in the Pacific. There, the problem was a set of practices (networking, debating the nature of a "gender perspective") that overlapped with anthropology's own methods of analysis. That book won the American Society of International Law's Certificate of Merit for 2000-2002. A later edited collection, Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge, concerned how to bring documents and documentary practices into view as ethnographic subjects, and what these subjects might tell us about the state of anthropological theory and its engagement with kindred disciplines at this moment.  I have continued my work in human rights law with a co-authored article From Multiculturalism to Technique: Feminism, Culture, and the Conflict of Laws Style (with Karen Knop and Ralf Michaels), 64(3)Stanford Law Review, 589-656 (March 2012) concerning what conflict of laws can contribute to the theoretical debates about the clash between feminist and multiculturalist norms, and a new ethnographic project on diplomacy in the human rights field. 

I have an equally strong interest in financial markets and their regulation.  I have conducted ten years of fieldwork among financial regulators and lawyers in Japan. My latest book, Collateral Knowledge: Legal Reasoning in the Global Financial Markets , is an ethnographic rendition of legal theory, and legal technicality as constitutive of markets. I also write about financial markets regulation on my blog, .  

Finally, I founded and direct Meridian 180, an online venue for a new genre of experimental ethnographic project in which ethnographers and experts collaborate to produce and reflect together on particular transnational fields of inquiry. It currently operates in four languages (English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean).