05 May 2013

CONFERENCE: In-Between: Trade and Legal Pluralism in the Era of the Geniza (Tel Aviv University, 29-31st May 2013)

What: The 4th Berg International Conference - Trade and Legal Pluralism in the Era of the Geniza
Where: Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Law 
When: May 29-31st 2013

Mark R. Cohen (Princeton) and Ron Harris (Tel Aviv)

As Goitein and others have shown, the Cairo Geniza contains a treasure trove of merchants’ correspondence, contracts and dispute resolution records. The merchants whose records are found in the Geniza were involved in trade in the Mediterranean, Middle East and India. They were engaged in long-distance cross-cultural trade. They organized their trade using partnerships, commenda contracts, agency relationships and social networks. A variety of rules and legal systems (that often interacted with each other) governed trade. As members of the Jewish community merchants were subject to Jewish law. The sovereign states in Egypt and other centers of trade applied Muslim law. Some of the organizational forms used by these Jewish merchants were borrowed from Muslim law and practices. Some of their destination markets were subject to Christian and Hindu laws. The Geniza documents thus open a window on a rich and complex world of legal pluralism, in which merchant practices, social norms and formal law all interacted with each other in many ways.
The proposed conference will bring together legal, economic and general historians of the Geniza and its era. In addition, we plan to invite a few additional scholars, such as yourself, specializing in merchant networks, social norms and cross-cultural trade in other places and times, often using similar theoretical frameworks. These scholars will present their own relevant papers, and also comment on the papers dealing with the Geniza.
Some of the themes we hope to discuss in the conference include: Formal and informal institutions; State law, religious law, social norms and the porous boundaries between different legal and normative systems (how does one define what "Jewish law" or "Muslim law" were at any given point of time?); Legal pluralism: choice of law, opting out of a legal system, choice of forum; Court litigation and alternative dispute resolution; Group-produced norms and laws and their enforcement; The effect of commercial practices on elite law, jurists and codification of law; Was there a medieval lex mercatoria?

Administrative Organization: Steffi Weintraub, Tel: 972-3-6408018; Fax: 972-3-6405849 

More information here.

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