The Affect of Objectivity: On the Atmosphere of International Criminal Court Proceedings
Jonas Bens (Freie Universität Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
It is often assumed that court proceedings are designed to cast aside affect and emotion to ensure a rational procedure and a just outcome. This paper instead describes the courtroom as an apparatus to produce specific affective and emotional dynamics, a specific courtroom atmosphere
Paper long abstract:
By presenting material based on several months of courtroom ethnography in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and by drawing from affect theory, the argument is made that courtroom proceedings are about mobilizing affect and emotion in order to produce objectivity. The theoretical claim that underlies this paper is that legal objectivity is in itself an affective register among others, not a mode of meaning-making that was somehow free of affect and emotion. Based on history of science research on objectivity, this paper highlights the connection between the idea of objectivity and the idea of the object in European enlightenment. To produce objectivity, bodies in the courtroom have to be objectified, which—as its flipside—entails the attempt of stripping their subjectivity. Attempts to suppress certain emotional displays (clapping, cheering, booing, outbursts of anger etc.) are then not merely a strategy to dissolve all affective dynamics, but only one strategy among many to strip bodies of their subjectivity. The introduction of non-human objects as evidence (images, video-tapes, forensic evidence etc.), quoting out of files and investigation reports rather than introducing human witnesses giving testimony in their own voice — acts that are not directly related to enforcing 'feeling rules' (Hochschild) — are other visible strategies to produce an affective dynamic of objectivity.
The anthropology of emotions and law [LAW NET]