Laws at War : justice, Domination and Violence in Afghanistan (2001-2018)

Contrary to the dominant perception, civil wars are not caracterized by lawlessness, but by competition between legal systems. This dissertation rely on the sociological approaches of law and the State to conceptualize the establishment of courts by an armed movement. Based on fieldworks carried out between 2010 and 2016, I analyze the social and political implications of the formation of law by the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. In a context in which justice is indissociably a legal activity, an instrument of social control and a stake in the war, how can an armed movement make the decisions of its judges recognized as legal and not political acts? In other words, how does a Taliban judge, who is a Taliban as much as a judge, manage to be recognized in his function by the population? The Taliban have set up their courts in a context of radical legal uncertainty caused by decades of civil war and fueled, after 2001, by Western military intervention. In order to ensure the impartiality of its judges, the insurgency have integrated them into an institutional framework and regulate their practices by rudimentary procedures of objectivization. While remaining caught up in the war, this legal system has allowed the armed movement to settle disputes, and thereby legitimize its territorial hold and apply its political agenda.


Gilles Dorronsoro

Tenured Professor of Political Science, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris


Olivier Nay

Professor, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris

Shalini Randeria

Research Director | Rector, The Graduate Institute, Geneva | IWM, Vienna