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This paper asks how to study migrants' relationship with the legal system upon arrival in the host country? Concentrating on the issues of plurality, it articulates different ways of explaining migrants' legal adaptations to the new legal environment. To clarify the fragmented debates I organise the approaches around the relative importance of the main analytical perspectives: legal assimilation, legal pluralism and legal consciousness/culture. I critically examine the assimilationist approach and demonstrate how the alternative perspectives are both an advance and a critique of it. The paper concludes that for studying migrants' legal adaptations the relevant question between legal pluralism and legal consciousness/culture approaches should not be one of ‘either/or’ but ‘how much’ or ‘to what extent’, depending on the populations under scrutiny. They both contribute to new ways in which ‘law’ is conceptualised that have implications for the study of legal orders as a whole.

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Journal article


Taylor & Francis

Publication Date





55 - 72


Law, legal, host country