Prof. Dr. Caspar Ehlers
Caspar Ehlers
Group Leader
Phone: +49 (69) 789 78 - 163

Research Focus Area

Legal Spaces

Jurists and historians alike are used to defining the spaces of their research clearly. ‘German’ and ‘European’ legal history long seemed to be unproblematic categories, but this is no longer the case. Scholars are increasingly sensitive to the historical relativity, flexibility and fluidity of spaces, which is partially due to recent advances in mobility and perhaps even to the deterritorialisation of communication about law. Consequently, the question of how to conceive of legal spaces as historical as well as analytical spaces is more pressing than ever. The purpose of the Legal Spaces Research Focus Area is to reflect on the concepts of space developed in sociology and cultural studies, to apply them to the phenomena of legal history and to investigate and refine their analytical potential. This will entail preparing a ‘glossary’ of spatial concepts that will include the results of the older, often unjustly neglected, research tradition. Bringing scholarship in legal history from various periods, with their various experiences of space and territorialisation practices, into contact with each other is a priority. Are there comparable modes of territorialisation and spatial construction in the context of the Carolingian and early modern European expansion and mission to America? How does the technical sophistication of law affect its translation and penetration into other places? What does this mean for our analytical categories? How we define the space of our research is an especially important consideration for an institute that was founded to study ‘European’ legal history with clear notions of space, but is now looking to include global historical perspectives on Europe’s own legal history. Imperial and colonial factors, among many others, define the space of ‘Europe’ and traverse it, overlap it, cut it and connect it with others. This converges in many ways with questions typically treated in comparative law as well as important considerations in legal history about what makes regions into spaces and how legal spaces are apprehended as such.

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