Ethnographies of Law II: Spaces of Legal and Bureaucratic Regulation

Sun, 6/2: 10:00 AM  - 11:45 AM 
Paper Session 
Sunday Session 2 
Room: Congressional B 
This panel is the second of two dedicated to ethnographies of law. The five papers examine how different "spaces" of law, bureaucracy, and regulation affect the lived experiences of various legal actors and subjects. The first three papers focus specifically on the performative aspects and lived experiences of court actors in different judicial systems through analyses of (1) the justifications put forward to legitimize problem-solving courts in the Midwestern United States, (2) the capacity of ethnography to explore the aesthetic dimensions of the state and law, and (3) reforms in judicial processes in Colombian labour courts. Two other papers focus specifically on the lived experiences of marginalized groups subject to legal and bureaucratic processes in Catalonia and Buenos Aires.


Krystle Shore, University of Waterloo  - Contact Me


03: Ethnography, Law & Society

Primary Keyword



Enforcing Integration? Regulating Identities and Constructing Legality in Catalan Rehabilitation Programs


In the past decades, criminal justice systems in the European Union have played an increasingly important role in regulating migration and integrating non-citizens into European societies. Spain has one of the largest populations of non-nationals living in EU member states, a group that is overrepresented in its prisons and criminal justice system. Rates of incarceration for non-citizens in Spain have hovered around a third of that population, and has approached half of an inmate population for the region of Catalonia. Drawing on ethnographic data collected in Catalan prisons in 2012-2014, this paper analyzes the ways in which inmates' legal status intersects with rehabilitation practices to contribute to broader processes of marginalization and exclusion in a carceral context. 


Johanna Romer, University of Essex  - Contact Me

Ethnography, Materiality and Legal Sensibilities : Towards a New Aesthetics of the State and Law


Orthodox legal scholarship has leftout of its narrations how the subjects experience the law. Seemingly such an account regards the State performances as the sole aesthetic legal phenomenon. I argue that the use of ethnography in approaching the law retrieves the existential experiences oflaw's subjects by composing new narrations about the law and the State. Besides, I highlight the difference between two kinds of interdisciplinarity in law, namely: using other discipline's methods to confirm law's statements, and using those methods, particularly ethnography, to foster a new aesthetics of law.

To do so, I use Walter Benjamin's "The Storyteller" to draw a parallel between Benjamin's narrator and the ethnographer. I widen Benjamin's critique of modern narrative to show that orthodox legal scholars erase the existential experience of the law's subjects in their understanding and description of legal phenomena, ending up in the implicit denial of the aesthetic potential of law. Whereas Benjamin locates the experience at the kernel of the narrative, I explore the potentialities of the ethnography of law as a means of retrieving the experience of law's subjects. Thereby, I conclude that ethnography offers a way to explore the aesthetic dimensions of the State and Law. 


Carolina Bejarano Martínez, Universidad de los Andes  - Contact Me

Inclusive Education as an Ambivalent Practice: Disability, Secrecy and Legal Rights


This paper explores the ambivalence encountered in the inclusion of children with disabilities within the mainstream school system in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Accordingly, it builds on the ethnographic reading of the case of Alan Rodríguez, a person with Down Syndrome who sued his former school and the City of Buenos Aires's Ministry of Education for refusing to grant him a secondary school official diploma upon completion of his studies. As the larger case has shown, the inclusive education of disabled children develops in a context of uncertainty, ambiguity, and even secrecy. This context, we will argue, is not only reflected in the regulations passed over time and in the different domains involved in the public policy of inclusive education, for instance: education and health care systems. Also importantly, this uncertainty is enacted by the conjunction of practices, perspectives, understandings and narratives of state and private actors responsible for the implementation of this public policy As we will explain in the essay, throughout their school life, the children with disabilities and their families are likely to deal with discretionary practices such as double registration, the arbitrariness in the certification of studies, and even the recurring practice of secrecy that hides their disability by not documenting it. Certainly, these practices can be encountered in the everyday construction of bureaucratic knowledge. However, in our research they become indexical of an ambiguous approach toward disability that extends beyond the bureaucratic milieu impacting on these people´s access to equal opportunities in different fields, such as the access to education and labor market. 


Leticia Barrera, CONICET-IDAES, UNSAM  - Contact Me

Non-Presenting Co-Author

Pilar Arcidiacono, CONICET-UBA  - Contact Me

The Object of Desire in Judicial Ritual: Between Efficient Speech and Due Process


In 2016, two lawyers sued before the Constitutional Court the law that reformed the labor judicial process, replacing the traditional written forms by new oral practices. The lawyers considered that this reform imposed "a strict time limitation" on different stages of the process, violating fundamental rights such as due process and the right to access the administration of justice. Although the Court declared the constitutionality of the reform, judges and lawyers continue to question the dynamics of the new procedure. In this article I analyze this problem (relating to the links between justice and the times) resignifying the judicial process to study it, more than the normative technical scheme, as a ceremonial ritual that expresses the relevant features of the legal culture that conceives it and that practices it. For this, I perform a comparative analysis of the symbols that are protected and appreciated in both procedural schemes (written and oral) in light of the referents of Totem and Taboo of Freudian psychoanalysis, to finally analyze the consequences of symbolic mergers in the practices and daily beliefs of judges, judicial employees and lawyers of the labor jurisdiction of Cali city. The data that i analyze were collected during the years 2013 to 2014. These were the ethnographic work I did during 6 months as an assistant in a labor court in Cali, and 25 semi-structured interviews resolved by various actors that are part of the Cali labor jurisdiction. 


Diana Marcela Solano, ICESi  - Contact Me

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