EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W041)

Regulating uncertainty: anthropological approaches to spaces of uncertainty in and of law [EN & FR]

Location R08 (in V)
Date and Start Time 11 Jul, 2012 at 11:30

Convenors

Damiana Otoiu (Bucharest University) email
Cristina Golomoz (University of Oxford) email
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Short Abstract

This workshop invites studies examining the role of law and of legal institutions in coping with uncertainties and risks pervading our lives. We welcome ethnographic, legal, and other social sciences approaches to legal uncertainty, indeterminacy, and risk.

Long Abstract

It is a basic assumption in contemporary social sciences that individuals possess limited degrees of rationality and reflexivity for understanding and responding to the surrounding (living) environment and landscape. As a consequence, the different social and cultural contexts in which individuals live face them with different types and forms of uncertainty spaces, that is, zones in which norms or regulations are insufficient or entirely absent. This observation retains validity even for spaces which are par excellence regulatory systems and which foster certainty as their inner principle, as it is the case of law.

This workshop invites studies examining the role of law and of legal institutions in coping with uncertainties and risks pervading our lives. Added the fact that attitudes to risk and uncertainty are not homogenous, but they vary (also) according to cultural and group biases (M. Douglas and A. Wildavsky: 1982), we welcome ethnographic, legal, and other social sciences approaches to:

- Perception and assessment of legal uncertainty and risk across legal and cultural traditions

- Legal definitions of risk and uncertainty

- Legal indeterminacy and interpretability of law

- Attempts at or claims of reducing legal indeterminacy and uncertainty

- Social benefits and costs of legal indeterminacy and uncertainty

- Ways in which courts and judges handle uncertainty and risk

Chair: Cristina Golomoz (LSE), Damiana Otoiu (University of Bucharest)
Discussant: Jennifer Cash, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology & Lale Yalcin-Heckmann (University of Halle-Wittenberg)

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Internally Displaced Persons in Azerbaijan and Practicing Limited Citizenship

Author: Lale Yalcin-Heckmann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and University of Pardubice)  email
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Short Abstract

Azerbaijani IDPs carry this status for nearly 20 years; they have limited citizenship rights and struggle through legislations and laws, using appeals and force. They put demands on the government and international bodies, but risk being clients of an authoritarian regime legitimating its existence.

Long Abstract

Azerbaijan towards the end of the Soviet Union and immediately after that has been at war with Armenians over the status of the Autonomous Region, Berg Karabagh. As a result, over 500 thousand people became internally displaced after Armenian forces took over the districts where they lived. Some IDPs have had this status for almost 20 years now. They have been excluded from Land Reforms primarily because the laws prescribe that rural residents get privatized land shares in those regions of official settlement and IDPs are expected to receive agrarian land once the occupied territories are recovered. Of course since 1992 many IDPs have taken up economic livelihoods in different parts of the country and/or migrated abroad. When they moved to the capitol Baku however, if they want to be registered as residents of the city, they need to give up their IDP status, which means giving up some entitlements and privileges. This paper looks at how IDPs balance these contradictory demands on their citizenship rights, such that they have to postpone their citizenship rights of owning property legally to an uncertain future. It examines how the IDPs manipulate their own status for putting on demands on the government and international bodies, but at the same time risk being clients of an authoritarian regime, legitimating its existence with the promise of recovering the lost lands. IDPs are both victims and supporters of state policies as they struggle through a jungle of legislations and laws, using appeals as well as force.

The burden of proof and the burden of stigma: categories of suspicion and DNA forensic databases

Authors: Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)  email
Helena Machado (University of Coimbra)  email
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Short Abstract

An exploration of prisoners’ views on the creation of a forensic DNA database in Portugal will sustain a reflection on their situatedness and on the categories of suspicion they mobilize. These will be examined in the light of a (re)visitation of different aspects of stigma discussed in prison studies in recent decades

Long Abstract

The introduction of bio-information technologies such as DNA profiling and databasing into criminal justice systems has been subject of conflicting claims involving confrontation between the 'certainty of science' and risk and uncertainty of human actions. While on the one hand DNA depiction as the gold standard for identifying individuals posits biotecnologies as a new "language of truth" that would reduce indeterminacy and uncertainty in crime detection and prevention, on the other hand they have in turn generated concerns and uncertainties about the social and ethical implications of the uses of genetic information.

An exploration of prisoners' reactions to the recent creation of a DNA database for criminal and civil identification purposes established in Portugal, and especially of their views on legal criteria for DNA profile removal, will be an occasion to reflect on the situatedness of the perceptions involved and on the categories of suspicion that they mobilize. Such categories of suspicion will be examined in the light of a (re)visitation of different aspects of stigma that have been discussed in literature about prison and imprisonment in recent decades.

The rule of law with Chinese characteristics: legal indeterminacy in the PRC's management of religion

Author: Maja Veselič (University of Ljubljana)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper scrutinizes religious legislation in the People's Republic of China through the concept of legal indeterminacy and examines the different meanings attached to the rule of law in the cultural and political context of contemporary China.

Long Abstract

This paper scrutinizes religious legislation in the People's Republic of China, in particular the 2005 Regulations on Religious Affairs (RRA) through the concept of legal indeterminacy. Part of a broader government endeavour to introduce the rule of law, the purpose of RRA has been to systemize and homogenize previously scattered religious regulations, to integrate them with other laws that touch upon religious affairs, and to increase the transparency of registration of religious organizations, venues and personnel. Although it was hoped that the final document would be proclaimed as a national law, giving the right of its interpretation to the National People's Congress, it eventually became an administrative regulation, promulgated by the State Council (i.e. government).

While the RRA does partly restrain the intervention of officials in management of religious affairs, it also continues to use arbitrary legal concepts, most notably that of 'normal religious activities', as its key guiding principles. RRA implementation is analyzed in order to argue that the final determination of (il)legality of religious activities ultimately remains - not unlike in the traditional China - with the ruler(s). As examples related to Islam show, completely identical activities may be permitted in one place while banned in the other, depending on their perceived usefulness or threat to authorities. Finally, an examination of arguments put forward by various parties in the dispute over registration of an underground protestant church in Beijing reveals the different meanings attached to the rule of law in the cultural and political context of contemporary China.

Law, state and favelas: a study about (i)legibilities

Author: Juliana Farias (UFRJ)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines possibilities of interlocution between favelas dwellers and state agents, focusing on cases of institutional violence turned into lawsuits. It explores the (i)legibility of state documents and the relationship between sovereignty, lawmaking and the so called "state of exception".

Long Abstract

This paper examines possibilities of interlocution between favelas dwellers and state agents, focusing on cases of institutional violence in Rio de Janeiro that are turned into lawsuits. Those processes are strongly linked to the action of a specific group of favelas dwellers: relatives of fatal victims of police violence - whose struggle for justice is enrolled in a context of poverty criminalization.

Considering state and law as an ethnographic problem, the research's fieldwork is draw according to the schedule of these relatives at different spheres of institutional representation - meetings at the Public Defender of Rio de Janeiro and judicial audiences are being observed as part of a largest agenda composed by privileged situations to think about state practices not in terms of law and transgression, but rather, as proposed by Das and Poole (2004), in terms of practices that lie simultaneously outside and inside the law.

Official documents and all paperwork that become part of the judicial processes is object of special attention in this research, not only its production or what is written in (by different state agents), but what can be read in each one and what can be understood. Then, this paper explores especially the question of the (i)legibility of state documents and the relationship between sovereignty, lawmaking and what is often called "state of exception".

The Restitution of Cultural Assets from Belgian and French Ethnographic Museums: (Re)construction of Museums' Norms and Policies

Author: Damiana Otoiu (Bucharest University)  email
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Short Abstract

It is an increasingly more present situation that ethnographic museums are faced with restitution requests. Dealing with such requests raises not only a series of historical, ethical and political interrogations, but also the need for coordinating heterogeneous and incoherent legislative frameworks.

Long Abstract

It is an increasingly more present situation that ethnographic museums are faced with restitution requests and claims for certain cultural assets, especially for objects having belonged to former colonies or indigenous peoples. Dealing with such requests raises not only a series of historical, ethical and political interrogations, but also the need for coordinating very heterogeneous and incoherent legislative frameworks. Subsequently, these peculiar restitution cases and the regulation of property rights over cultural assets become complex processes in which different actors, norms and types of legitimacy are brought together and confronted with one another. Starting from several restitution claims addressed to Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (Bruxelles) and to Musée du Quai Branly (Paris), this paper will first enquire into the actors of the process of (re)construction of museums' norms and policies, (state institutions, NGOs, museographers, etc.). Second, the paper will analyse the process of norms' "framing": how these actors engage with the "great meta-narratives" of the past? And what are the main themes employed in justifying the "necessity of restitution", particularly the political-historical arguments? (restitution as synonymous with the recognition of former colonies' sovereignty, or with a reparation for colonial past's torts).

Les musées ethnographiques se confrontent actuellement à des demandes de restitution de biens culturels, et particulièrement d'objets provenant d'anciennes colonies ou des peuples autochtones. Gérer ces demandes soulève des interrogations historiques, éthiques, politiques, mais aussi en termes de coordination de cadres législatifs hétérogènes ou incohérents. Différents acteurs, normes et légitimités se confrontent dans ce processus de « restitution » ou de reconnaissance du droit de propriété sur les biens culturels. À partir de quelques demandes de restitution, adressées au Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (Bruxelles) et au Musée du Quai Branly (Paris), nous nous interrogeons premièrement sur les acteurs de cette (re)construction des normes et politiques muséales (des institutions étatiques, des ONG, des muséographes, etc). Deuxièmement, notre analyse portera sur le processus de « cadrage » : comment ces acteurs réinterprètent-ils les « grands métarécits » du passé? et quels sont les principaux thèmes invoqués pour justifier une « nécessaire restitution », notamment les arguments politico-historiques? (la restitution vue comme synonyme de la reconnaissance de la souveraineté des pays après la décolonisation, ou comme une réparation des torts du passé colonial).

Dealing with Legal Uncertainty in Times of Transition: An Ethnographic Example from East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Author: Michaela Haug (University of Cologne)  email
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Short Abstract

My Paper will explore how local actors used the legal uncertainty that followed decentralisation in Indonesia to expand their control over natural resources by interpreting, using and circumventing existing rules in their favour and discuss the negative and positive impacts this had on local livelihoods.

Long Abstract

When Indonesia implemented one of the most rigorous decentralisation reforms throughout Asia in 1999, local governments gained the full responsibility for such important areas as education, health, labour, public works, the environment and natural resource management. However, unclear task sharing and overlapping authorities of central and local instances also created a situation of great legal uncertainty.

In the forest rich districts of East Kalimantan this led to a logging boom which generated mainly short-lived economic benefits for local communities, an increase of inter- and intra-village conflicts, increasing inequalities and further deforestation. In my paper I will take the district of Kutai Barat, where I conducted 22 month of field research as an ethnographical example to explore how different local actors used this situation of legal uncertainty to interpret, use, and circumvent existing rules in their favour as well as to create their own ones. I will explore how the power relations between the different actors influenced the distribution of benefits and discuss the resulting positive and negative impacts for local livelihoods. The proposed paper will thus contribute to a better understand the potential and actual social benefits and costs of legal indeterminacy and uncertainty.

What is safe and what is sorrow? Home, Family and State in Post-war Kosovo

Author: Elife Krasniqi (Center for Southeast European History)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper discusses the dynamics of domestic sphere, home and the private, which denote family; in relation to laws, social security and the public which is seen as the state, in transitional period after the war in 1999 in Kosovo.

Long Abstract

The period of post-war in 1999 in Kosovo, marks big transformations in many spheres of society. Kosovo society has undergone through political turbulent times, and had had a long time since experienced social certainty and security. Nevertheless, for Albanians in Kosovo, family provided solidarity, social security and social cohesion. The changes that happen in transitional period in Kosovo indicate that this stable space of home, which signifies family and household, has become increasingly questioned. This is most vividly seen, when family is the source of physiological and physical violence. Because of the inefficiency of state in implementing existing laws, mistrust in courts and judges, these issues very often are settled within the family, according to remnants of Customary Law. This also because, domestic tensions are seen to belong in the domestic sphere, as such private and away from the eye and ear of the public, this is also the state. The general discourse about home and family is romanticized and very often nationalized. While home was always the safe space, with the creation of shelters for women victims of domestic violence in beginning of 1990s, safety moved to shelters that did not belong to family, fathers and brothers. This paper discusses the dynamics of domestic sphere, home and the private, which denote family; in relation to laws, social security and the public which is seen as the state. The findings used for this paper are part of the preliminary research stage, conducted in south Kosovo and capital Prishtina, during 2011 and 2012.

"Essuyer les larmes", un film de Rina Sherman 1h15, 2012

Author: Rina Sherman (ACA LTFA)  email
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Short Abstract

Le film nous transporte au sein de la communauté Ovahimba au nord-ouest de la Namibie, au cœur d'un jeu passionnel entre une femme, son mari et son ami, et du procès qui les opposent, dont les conséquences risquent d'être dramatiques pour eux, pour leurs familles respectives et leur communauté.

Long Abstract

"Essuyer les larmes" nous transporte au sein de la communauté Ovahimba d'Etanga, un lieu-dit situé au nord-ouest de la Namibie.

Il nous plonge au cœur d'un jeu passionnel entre une femme, son mari et son amant, et du procès qui les opposent, dont les conséquences risquent d'être dramatiques tant pour eux que pour leurs familles respectives et leur communauté. Au centre de cet enjeu, il y a le bétail, la seule source de richesse dans la culture Ovahimba.

Au travers de leurs témoignages, les trois protagonistes nous livrent chacun sa propre version des événements qui ont bouleversé leurs vies. Puis, lors du procès de droit coutumier en plusieurs audiences qui suit, ils racontent cette relation passionnelle à trois vécue depuis plusieurs mois.

Ces audiences permettent aux anciens présents lors du procès de rappeler des coutumes en droit de mariage, droits des femmes et partage des bœufs. Ou encore aux autres hommes, plus jeunes, de se moquer ouvertement du mari cocu, de l'amant qui a perdu tout son troupeau pour l'amour d'une femme ou encore de l'épouse qui aura finalement risqué de perdre mari et amant.

Aussi, chaque témoignage propose sa propre interprétation des règles qui régissent le culte du bœuf : droit de succession, droit de prêt, droit de mariage, droit de « vol » .

Vuaanderua parle du bœuf n'a jamais été donné pour reconnaître la mort d'un de ses jumeaux, de celui que Kamboo lui avait prêté lorsque Kandanda avait « bu » tout leur cheptel, de ceux de sa dote qui seront dû par sa famille si elle devait se séparer officiellement de son mari.

Kamboo et Kandanda parlent aussi de ses bœufs-là, d'un autre point de vue, mais ils parlent surtout de ceux confisqués par Kandanda.

Pour Kamboo, l'amant, il s'agit pour certains des bœufs qu'il a confisqués d'une sanction justifiée et pour d'autres bœufs, d'un vol dont il serait victime. Et il est prêt à porter plainte auprès de la police nationale si la cour ne lui donne pas satisfaction ; c'est sa survie même qui est en jeu.

Pour Kandanda, le mari trompé, la loi est de son côté ; l'amant a été pris en flagrant délit, les anciens et les conseillers lui ont donné raison et il veut récupérer les bœufs de Kamboo et ne plus en entendre parler.

Ce cas d'adultère intéresse tout le monde. Les femmes, discrètes dans l'affaire, le suivent pourtant de près. Elles vivent dans une société polygame où les hommes peuvent avoir autant de femmes qu'ils peuvent se payer. En revanche, un homme pris en flagrant délit d'adultère chez une femme mariée, est sujet à de lourdes sanctions, naguère la mort, et, de nos jours, l'expropriation de tout son cheptel. Les hommes arrivent en grand nombre à Etanga. Car, si Kamboo a pu s'emparer de la belle Vuaanderua de Kandanda, rien n'empêcherait d'autres jeunes hommes de porter un regard sur leurs femmes. Ils veulent surtout éviter que cette affaire ne devienne un cas de jurisprudence !

A travers cette histoire tout à la fois tragique, poignante et drôle, ce sont les principaux usages de la culture Ovahimba qui se révèlent.

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This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.