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Accepted Paper:

The forums and the foreign: Judicial strategies that neutralize the "alterity" of law by culture and how to deal with them  
Tomas Ledvinka (University Hradec Králové)

Paper short abstract:

In the context of judicial strategies that neutralize foreign legal cultures in asylum and international civil trials, the paper reflects in-the-field experiments on epistemic negotiating between the judiciary and legal anthropology about the definitions of law, culture and its variants.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research of judicial cases with the presence of the alterity of law/culture in cultural evidence about the state of the law in migrants' country of origin (asylum trials) and the application of foreign law (international civil trials) in the Czech Republic, the paper first outlines how encounters with the "foreign" (the legal cultures of Afghanistan and Yemen in the trials) are handled by multiple, mostly textual judicial strategies which in many ways employ the divide between law and culture in order to neutralize what may be called the "alterity" of law. I suggest that far from being analytical tools concepts such as "tradition", "culture", or "custom" are used to essentialize, disintegrate and reduce unsettling foreign legalities. In this context, I reflect in-the-field experiments on how Leopold Pospíšil´s ethnological concept of law can be used as a vehicle for negotiating epistemic struggles between the anthropological commitments to contextual differentiation and the opposing reductionist, judicial approach. Lastly, I discuss whether anthropologists can realistically contribute to the judicial practice without a kind of anthropologization of legal authorities' distinctive manner of imagining the real and destabilizing taken-for-granted definitions of law, culture, and its variants as well as whether the mutual divergence can be bridged by handing over "methodographic" insights.

Panel P156
Law and Culture in Court