Author:Sonal Makhija (University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I will discuss the relationship between audibility, hearing and justice, and the multiple layers of 'hearing' in a courtroom. Drawing on my fieldwork in a courtroom in Mumbai, I will show how hierarchical spatialisation affects audibility, hearing and justice.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper I will discuss the relationship between audibility, hearing and justice. I explore the multiple layers of 'hearing' in a courtroom beyond the sensorial act of audibility. In this paper I will explore how hierarchical spatialisation affects audibility, hearing and justice, and how it disables audibility itself as litigants struggle to 'hear' the proceedings. The delay in receiving relief and not being 'heard' was a recurring subject in my interviews with women litigants. Drawing on my fieldwork in a courtroom in Northern Mumbai, India on the domestic violence law, I will discuss how spatial hierarchy amplifies only certain voices, and only those privileged spatially hear what is being said. The court determines who is heard and who hears, who partakes and who doesn't. The spatialisation disempowers litigants and undermines their status in courts, but also reinforces the superior status of other participants. This denial of 'hearing' and 'witnessing' is also connected to language and the quality of legal assistance most women court users can afford. It often determines who is heard, what makes it into court records and which case is worthy of court time. The language of the law and the constant switching between multiple languages in courts affects 'hearing' as litigants fail to grasp and comprehend the proceedings. In this paper, I will explore the intimate relationship between justice and hearing.S