Materialities of legal discourse
The following notion of materialities is essential to link
pre-trial and trial, preparation and performance, case-work and its
staging in court. How are materialities defined? From the point of
interaction in court, materialities appear as relatively steady social
forms. They are pre-established and co-productive at the same time.
For instance the file cannot be altered by ‘talking’ the
case in court. The spatial figuration set by the courtroom is out
of discussion once the trial is on its way. Even stories are pre-established
before they enter the hearing. They inherit not only binding forces
due to coherence and finality but also a discursive history of employments
at different junctures. The narrator in court faces prior versions.
Courtrooms, files or stories can be observed prior to and after the hearing.
Due to their relative stability, they play pivotal roles in the configuration
and co-production of the hearing. Materialities are marked as relatively
autonomous units by their own rhythm, duration and mode of becoming. This relational
and temporal definition of materialities avoids the shortcomings of dualist or
dialectic theories. Activity and structure, “Basis” and “Überbau” (superstructure) resemble
only extreme points on a scale of relatively solid or fluid entities.
Interestingly, some activities during the hearing are directed towards the co-existing
but disharmonic materials. One can observe attempts and methods to harmonise
them (for all practical purposes). Barristers, for instance, employ intermediaries
to translate one materiality (e.g. the case-file) into another (e.g. the speech).
The different temporal foundations, however, can only be bridged for short periods.
- Stories and Arguments
Special Issue on "Law and Biography" in BIOS
Call for Abstracts/French-German Conference on “Enfermement/Freiheitsentzug”
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