Beyond Anti-Anti-Orientalism, Or How Not to Study Chinese Law

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This essay is the lead entry in a special section entitled “Exchange on Legal Orientalism” in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal Comparative Law, charting debates engendered by my monograph Legal Orientalism: China, the United States and Modern Law (Harvard University Press 2013). Specifically, I examine two recent feature-length articles published in back-to-back issues of the American Journal of Comparative Law, both of which engage with the argument of Legal Orientalism, viz. “Anti Anti-Orientalism, or Is Chinese Law Different?” by Professor Donald Clarke at George Washington University and “Critical Legal Orientalism” by Professor Thomas Coendet at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. My main goal is not so much to assess the accuracy of these recent critiques of my analysis—although that will be of some concern, especially with respect to Clarke’s characterization of my position—but ultimately to understand what are the ongoing stakes of legal Orientalism. Why and how does Orientalism continue to matter in the field of comparative law?


comparative law, Chinese law, comparative method, politics of comparison, postcolonial theory, legal Orientalism

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American Journal of Comparative Law

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70 Am. J. Comp. L. 858 (2023)