Accepted Paper:

Translating evidentiary practices and technologies of truth finding: oath taking as witness testimony in plural legal configurations in rural Morocco  

Author:

Bertram Turner (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyzes a court proceeding in rural Morocco in which a people’s judge operates with specifically developed technologies of taking evidence and establishing truth that appear inherently contradictory but nevertheless reflect aspects of various normative logics.

Paper long abstract:

The paper addresses technologies of truth finding and the establishment of evidence in dealing with everyday deviance at the village level in rural Morocco. There is a multitude of institutions and individuals that appear to be tied to the formal legal system and the state to varying degrees. In this paper, one particular institution - that of the people's judge, the hakim - takes center stage. The hakim was entitled to pass judgment on behavior that was considered a non-serious infraction of that order in which local normativity and formal law converge. In this plural legal configuration, I argue, the hakim operated with specifically developed technologies of taking evidence and establishing truth that appear inherently contradictory but nevertheless reflect aspects of various normative logics, namely locally well-established customary practices, Islamic procedures, and those acknowledged by the formal judiciary. In the process, evidence and truth hence emerge as "averaged" normative categories to serve justice at the grassroots level while still complying with the requirements of the formal legal system. As will be shown, a procedure the hakim applied in his court to establish the truth—the taking of an oath—appears to be a hybrid of different normative logics and frames of reference. I argue that this approach allowed the hakim to draw on aspects of competing truths or realities that follow different normative and social logics to ultimately arrive at one definitive conclusion.

Panel P063
Evidence in question: anthropological authority and legal judgment [Anthropology of Law and Rights]