Institutions which deal with the process of judging are directly concerned by the question of doubt. By putting ritual and judiciary settings into perspective we propose to discuss the techniques for casting and dispelling doubt and the role they play in the process leading to the final verdict.
Institutions which deal with the process of judging both at ritual and at legal level are directly concerned by the question of doubt. Procedures aimed at eliciting and dispelling doubt are used with the intention of exploring or clarifying the facts that need to be judged, or as a way of legitimating or validating the final verdict. Depending on the situation, doubt may come from the person in charge of passing judgment or from the one requesting or receiving judgment. We propose to discuss the techniques of casting and dispelling doubt in different contexts and the role they play in the process leading to the final verdict. The ensuing comparison would put ritual and judiciary settings into perspective. To take a few examples, gods' mediums and astrologers in India are regularly consulted in order to arbitrate local conflicts or to give their judgment in different situations. Both contexts provide specific techniques of interrogation and proof whereby doubts may be formulated and dissipated during the ritual interaction. This is to be compared to judiciary settings, where creating doubt is both a strategy of the prosecution or the defense lawyer and a standard of proof defined by the law and by the judge's "intimate conviction". Indeed, as we all know, legal techniques of interrogation are used to cast doubt on the appellant's credibility, and, more generally, the legal notion of "reasonable doubt" is historically linked to the anxiety that the role of judging and punishing may produce.