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Paper short abstract:
This paper tries to summarize the "state of the art" of cultural expertise in Italian courts today, it identifies the possible reasons behind its fragility and some consequences. Data derive from a research I carried out in 2017 regarding the collaboration between Italian courts and anthropologists.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is skeptical about a recent proposal (made by part of Italian legal world) to develop a "cultural test" for Italian courts to ensure a more effective approach to multiculturalism. Italian law allows for experts to participate in trials when the matter in dispute involves issues that cannot be resolved based on general notions or experience: so why should judges take the place of anthropologists? By presenting data derived from a collection of Italian judicial proceedings involving cultural experts as well as from my personal experience as expert witness, this paper outlines the wide range of positions on cultural expertise in Italian courts. What emerges is a vulnerable relationship which leaves considerable room for experimentation while at the same time being heavily affected by a narrow perspective on the role of culture in law. Such awareness, however, may represent the basis for remedying shortcomings and for establishing a successful systematic collaboration between legal actors and anthropologists, instead of for renouncing it.
Law and Culture in Court