EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Collaboration in criminal justice: actors, processes and translation

Location S-232
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 16:00


Jan Budniok (Universität Hamburg) email
Mirco Göpfert (University of Konstanz) email
Johanna Mugler (University of Berne ) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel explores criminal justice as a chain of translations. It focuses on the links between the various levels and on how intentional and collaborative actors, through processes of meaning-making, cross the gaps of indeterminacy between these levels.

Long Abstract

Interest has grown into research on policing, courts, and legal systems. This research mainly focuses separately on groups of actors or the (mal)functioning of institutions as parts of the criminal justice chain: the suspects' and defendants' perspectives and strategies; the policemen's techniques of handling complaints and investigating cases; public prosecutors' and lawyers' pleas and paperwork; the judges' predicaments as adjudicators; and correctional institutions and the custody of offenders. This chain is often described as a legal funnel, which, from the civilians' perspective, functions on the basis of obscure mechanisms and threatens to suck them up in a vortex leading to unpredictable convictions and sanctions.

In this panel, we conceive this funnel as a chain of translations and want to focus on the links between the various levels of the criminal justice chain. Translations from one level to the other are neither necessary nor automatic - between them lies a gap of indeterminacy - but are the result of the collaborative practices of translation. Intentional and collaborating actors try to make sense of events, cases, documents, translate them into new events, cases, documents, thus make meaning and set the whole chain in motion. The main questions we will ask are: What is it that is being translated from one link to the other? How is it transformed? And what is the reference indispensable for any translation?

We invite papers based on ethnographic fieldwork on criminal justice around the world paying close attention to the connection of two or more parts of this chain.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Defining intentionality: translation and interprétation in criminal cases (Sudan and Algeria)

Author: Yazid Ben Hounet (CNRS)  email

Short Abstract

This communication focuses on criminal cases in Algeria and Sudan. Sometimes homicide considered a priori as intentional leads to reconciliation. This leads us to a question: How acts are translated and interpreted as intentional (or not) in the judicial and legal process?

Long Abstract

This communication will focus on criminal cases, I encouter in Algeria and Sudan, that was settled with reconciliation and blood money practices. When I did research, I found really central the issue of intentionality. This point has been however little discussed by anthropologists interested in reconciliation and blood money. In theory, and in Islamic normativities, an act considered as unintentional leads to reconciliation and to blood money compensation. It presupposes more easily the granting of forgiveness. And during my research, blood money was easily accepted in case of homicide by accident. But, this is not always the case and we observe sometimes the opposite: homicide considered a priori as intentional leads to reconciliation when homicide considered a priori as accidental does not lead to reconciliation.

This reality and contradiction lead us to assert the notion of intentionality: how acts are defined, translated and interpreted as intentional (or not) in the judicial and legal process?

The production and role of forensic evidence in transitional scenarios: a preliminary assessment

Authors: Shakira Bedoya Sanchez (Free University Berlin / OLAP/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
Yuriditzi Pascacio-Montijo (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)  email

Short Abstract

Through the study of different exhumation initiatives executed by forensic anthropologists in Peru and Guatemala, this paper analyses the production of scientific 'facts' and 'truths' used in legal settings thus enquiring into the role of law in legitimating practices of scientific knowledge.

Long Abstract

Through the ethnographic study of exhumation initiatives carried out by different forensic teams in Peru and Guatemala, this paper analyses the role of forensic anthropology to produce 'facts' and 'truth' that can be used in courts dealing with past human rights violations. It asks how the production of 'forensic evidence' plays out in different cultural and political contexts arguing that the creation of a forensic 'fact' is dependent on these contexts.

In this respect, this paper enquiries into the role of law as a tool for producing and legitimating practices of scientific knowledge. As well as to examine the ways by which different disciplinary fields and institutional frameworks re-inscribe, appropriate and assimilate 'legal' knowledge to foster their outcomes, questioning the definition of subjects, agents and techniques of management and the forms of co-production- the entanglement of law with the 'stable' categorical terms and fields (expert, science, etc.) and the placing, circumscription and articulation of those categories in the production of a case (Santos, 2007)

The paper departs from an epistemic pluralistic proposal combining Goodman's relevant kind notion (1973) and some other complementary works such as those of Hacking (2007), Dupré (1993), and Ali Khalidi (1998) on classification. In general terms, it is sustained that fact as a class react to descriptions and is either the product of, or sensitive to, context, instruments, theories, process of standardization, and notions of objectivity; which in consequence give it a use.

“Testimonies of violence in post-war Guatemala”: assessing the role of the social anthropologist as an actor in the production of victims' archives

Author: Jorge Isaac Rodriguez Herrera (Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology foundation)  email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the epistemology that lies behind the construction of victims’ testimonies and its incorporation as “forensic evidence” from the role given to social anthropologists, as such, it addresses the dynamics by which testimonies are collected and re-interpreted for a justice setting as well as their significance in the particular context of post-war Guatemala.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to present two aspects of the construction of testimonial data in the Guatemalan context: firstly, the importance and role of the social anthropologist for the production of testimonial’s archives and secondly, the condition of possibility of this ‘collection’ to be used by the administration of justice, concretely, the Public Ministry of Guatemala.

Departing from my work experience with several victims’ relatives, I shall explore the dynamics of what Alejandro Castillejo has named the “domestication of the testimony” furthermore I shall content that currently the production of victim’s archives disregards important information and is based on a series of structural ‘voids’, consequently constituting the weakest part of the general forensic investigation process used for the Public Ministry.

The analysis of the pre-arranged interpretative frameworks to codify and classify the information of victims, demonstrates an over importance given to the production of ante-mortem material (central for the identification process) by this, other crucial testimonial aspects provided by relatives remain ‘hidden’ and left out as they are circumscribed to be used as factual references of the occurrence of an event: the what when and where the violence occurred; and who the victims were.

The absences in the archive raise the question of ‘language’ (and the different processes of translation) taken place betweenthe forensic agencies in charged with the first collection of data and the apparatus for the administration of justice. What is the concrete position and function of the social anthropologist within these chains of interpretation? What constitutes a testimony? What is included and left outside the framework of reference in transitional scenarios? Would these fragmented stories of violence ever be pasted together in a criminal case against a perpetrator?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.