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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.


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