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Comparing Criminal Trials

The globalisation of law makes it increasingly vital to understand the differences of legal systems. There are two dominant methods of comparison. The first one (often implicitly) sets one focal system as standard and identifies discrepancies in other systems. The second one isolates areas of comparison (such as disclosure, bail, hearsay etc.) from a legal point of view. Both perspectives use thresholds of comparison that disregard the specificities of legal practices in context and process.

One can learn from ethnographic comparison here. Components such as files, witness statements or closing speeches obtain their relevancy via the position within entire assemblages and processes. In order to compare the legal features contextually, the four case studies ( UK , US, Italy , Germany ) focus on the practicalities of legal discourse. How does this lead to comparison? One can reveal functional problematics and the contingent methods to tackle them. How, for instance, is decidability produced? How do practitioners avoid surprise? How can somebody speak for somebody else? How does the procedural past matter?

The frame of comparison are neither single cases nor entire legal systems. In what we call "thick comparison", we focus rather on different procedural regimes that include certain criminal courts, procedural publics, scriptual economies, legal professions, stages of pre-trial, etc. One finds different regimes within one legal system. Procedural regimes order, link, disrupt and weigh fact producing events. By doing so, they make (un) available a certain procedural history. Hence, our study of criminal procedure focusses on knowing. We study communication processes and decision making in light of the actual knowledge processes and epistemic practices in different procedural regimes. We extended "thick comparison" to studies of political inquiry and, in 2010, to legislative procedure in parliamantary committees.



New activities

Special Issue on "Law and Biography" in BIOS

Call for Abstracts/French-German Conference on “Enfermement/Freiheitsentzug

Latest Texts/Books

My ethnography on the English Crown Court procedure by BRILL

Our comparative ethnography of criminal defence work in different procedural regimes by PALGRAVE

Teaching in SS 2011

Scheffer: „Einführung in die Institutionelle Ethnographie“ Kurs in Moodle

Scheffer: „Was tun Verfahren? Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Debatte“ Kurs in Moodle

Scheffer: „Arbeitskreis politische Ethnographie“ Termine in Moodle

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