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.
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.