Encyclopedia Article


A general reference to the societal construction of and belief in "the law" as a body of order, surveillance, and discipline. The "law" can also be practiced by lawyers and advocates as well as enacted by public servants, such as police officers. Hillerman's relationship with "the law," at least in his novels, is ambiguous. At times, the law, as dictated by a society, serves to extract civil order from uncivil chaos. On the other hand, cultural traditions, such as those he observed on the Navajo and other reservations, seem to express a natural law, one that perhaps informs but that also transcends jurisprudence, for example the Navajo idea of hózhǫ́, an expression of natural equilibrium. The protagonists in Hillerman's Navajo detective novels, Leaphorn and Chee, are often placed in situations where they understand the written laws, but remain aware of the limitations and contradictions of the written law as it is practiced.

Term Type: