Tracing courts: the places of the state
Alex Jeffrey (University of Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines work in geography and anthropology that has sought to explore the political life of court processes. The paper probes how subjectivity and imaginations of the state emerge through the workings of legal processes, focusing on the interplay of bodies, materials and evidence.
Paper long abstract:
Sites of legal adjudication - abbreviated imperfectly to 'courts' - have always performed a significant role in the enactment of state sovereignty. The ability to write law and lay claim to legal authority is seen from some theoretical perspectives as evidence of sovereign power. But increasingly anthropologists and legal geographers are querying the straightforward connection between the exercise of law and the intentions of the state, thinking through how the circulation of bodies, materials and affects shape attitudes towards - and outcomes of - judicial processes. This work highlights how courts capture a moment where quotidian practices and mundane materials become the very mechanisms through which the intangible authority of the state is achieved or challenged. For this reason, law becomes an instrument not simply of justice but, in many circumstances, a mechanism of state building and a site of political subjectivity. Drawing on a variety of examples, though dwelling on cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the UK, the paper probes how subjectivity and imaginations of the state emerge through the workings of legal processes, focusing on the interplay of bodies, materials and evidence.
Geographies and anthropologies of the state: places, persons and nonhumans