Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law

(2000) JLP 45: 49-70


The Process Geography of Law

(As Approached Through Andalucian Gitano Family Law)


Susan G. Drummond




Comparative law and legal anthropology have for long theorized on the basis of a traditional geography which saw states, regions, locales and social fields as having durable boundaries containing stable and homogenous cultures. This idea of place is now undergoing a massive transformation in response to the effects of and theories about globalization. The emerging ‘process geography’ rejects these traditional ideas, arguing that they are not, and indeed have never been aspects of reality, which is better represented by an imagery of processes. However, it is argued here that globalization is not a synonym for homogenization, nor has place suddenly become entirely irrelevant to identity.


This problematic is examined in relation to family law in the Gitano communities of Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucia. Research there suggests that locale is a meaningful site of inquiry, but that it is suffused with remote influences. Three localizable, multifaceted struggles may be seen. First, the Holy See and Madrid have struggled for centuries over whether civil family law would trump religious law, that is, whether the secular state would break the Catholic monopoly over family law. Second, there has been a struggle between Andalucia, Madrid and the global tourist population. Madrid has promoted a mass influx of tourists wishing to view the traditional pilgrimage to Rocio, which has been marketed as a typically Spanish, ‘authentic’ traditional event. But the Andalucian population which celebrates Jerez’s Holy Week at the center of the event continues to observe it in unorthodox ways uncontrolled by either the Church or the State. Third, Gitano families struggle with Andalucia, Madrid and the globally shifting tourist population. Andalucia, Madrid and the Gitano population all have an interest in promoting Flamenco, allegedly created by Gitanos, as a tourist attraction. Observation of the rituals of an ‘authentic’ Gitano wedding showed that some aspects had been transformed to accommodate the floating class of tourists, but also that tourists were barred from one stage of the process in a decision which itself was a controversial event in local history.


Thus family law, as practised and idealized in this instance, responds to local, national and global imageries. The reshaping of national identity in the light of globalization results locally not so much in harmonization as constantly renewed ways of negotiating the character of the family and of the self in the family according to a vast multiplicity of signifiers from many dispersed locales.