Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 18 Issue 1 (January/February 2008), Pages 1-90

Constructing the law: discourses and social practices (pages 68-82)


This paper presents an analysis of everyday understandings of the law, within the context of a dispute between colonial and indigenous land interests in New Zealand. The analysis is informed by developments in the areas of critical legal studies, methodological critique of legal psychology, the social constructionist movement within social psychology, and the application of discursive psychology to understandings of racism. Data for this work was drawn from a corpus of letters to the editor of a newspaper, published in the city where the land dispute took place. Writers constructed the dispute as a legal issue and deployed two divergent constructions of the law. When the ‘primacy’ of the law was invoked, indigenous interests and the protesters were positioned as lawbreakers. When ‘the law in context’ was the resource used, protesters became positioned as seekers of justice. These variable constructions are discussed in terms of the social practices they engender and their wider contribution to debates regarding indigenous and colonial interests. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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