Two disciplines that bring new perspectives on how law departments function: micro-history and ethnography

So-called micro-history “takes small events in the past involving inconspicuous people and a limited number of sources and teases out of them stories and meanings that presumably throw light on the larger society.” This quote from Gordon S. Wood, The Purpose Of The Past (Penguin 2008) at 127, holds for law department commentary. Blog posts are a bit like this. Small points, often larger significance.

At the same time that historians turned to micro-histories, anthropologists and ethnographers, led by Clifford Geertz, began promoting “thick descriptions” of ordinary events to uncover cultural meanings that required literary-like interpretation rather than scientific investigation. Reading cultural behaviors as if they were texts became more and more popular and insightful. Ethnography has become the discourse of the postmodern world. With law departments, specialists could “read” the rituals, modes of interaction, office settings, mores, and messages of internal legal teams as “texts” for insightful thick descriptions.

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