Between Cultural and Social Anthropology and Law

“I have recently found my old student ID card in a moving box. ‘Unbelievable’, I thought as I looked at the picture. A young version of myself with long hair, a wild beard and piercings calmly smiled at me. Nearly ten winter and summer semesters have passed since then. It really is ‘unbelievable’ that I am now already in my second degree programme, often wearing a shirt and working – always cleanly shaved – in a law firm besides my studies.

After finishing school, I came to Vienna and started my degree programme in Cultural and Social Anthropology. Already back then I thought about taking Law as a second degree programme. ‘But will I be able to manage it?’, I asked myself. I waited patiently for a few semesters before I felt ready. That one year really was ‘unbelievable’ because I did not only complete my bachelor’s degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology, but also passed the difficult introductory and orientation period of Law. I even managed to move and take a vacation during, in-between and somehow parallel to my studies. I spent many, many hours in the reading room filling up piles of notebooks and using up countless pens.

During that special time you tend to think that you are not moving forward at all, like everything is at a standstill: every day the same reading room, every semester the same seminar rooms, buying the semester public transport ticket again and again, choosing courses and planning ECTS credits. But when I look at my old student ID card, I realise that nearly everything has changed rapidly and continuously since then. Looking back, it was a lively and very eventful time.

At the beginning of my degree programme, I rarely went to lectures in the morning, had parties on Mondays or Wednesdays and constantly celebrated someone’s birthday, new flat shares or just my own independence.
Two years ago, shortly before completing my first degree programme, a lot of things have started to change gradually and almost unnoticed: During the day I would sit in the reading room over a pile of books to work on my seminar paper on voodoo and read about foreign cultures and exotic customs. In the evenings, I would sit on the balcony of my former shared flat and read introductory lecture notes on law. One thing eventually started to feel like taking a ‘break’ from the other and I had turned into a full-time student.

During the summer, I completed my last exam in Cultural and Social Anthropology and became a full-time law student. If I had to describe my first impression in one word, I would say that the transition from Cultural and Social Anthropology to Law was somewhat of a ‘cultural shock’.

By now I have settled in just fine, learn a lot and feel motivated again each semester.

One day I would like to be a legal anthropologist or at least have works published in this field. The path to reach this goal will definitely be long and difficult – but I have already surprised myself once and I am sure that I will be able to do so a second or third time.” – Richard Bonomo

Richard is studying Law at the University of Vienna.

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