Social & Legal Studies

Sage Publications, Inc.
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Latest documents

  • Book Review: Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi
  • Violence, Misrecognition, and Place: Legal Envelopment and Colonial Governmentality in the Upper Skeena River, British Columbia, 1888

    This paper is concerned with exploring legal atmospheres during colonial expansionism and the early period of confederation of British Columbia. By describing the theatrical and performative aspects of legal colonialism, the archival documents from this time represent interesting, yet oft-overlooked, significances that attention to sensory and affective experiences captures. Examining “affective atmospheres” disclosed in such colonial settings reveals ways that the colonial regime promulgated its influence in non-rational, non-legal manners. As well, drawing out the material conditions of topography shows how the environment acts more than just a backdrop for the staging of legal expansionism, as it acts also as a constitutive force in the development of colonial legal arrangements. At the same time, the colonial regime was forgetful of these same contextual, topographical, and atmospheric origins of law insofar as it promulgated myths of the universality, objectivity, and superiority of English law.

  • Book Review: Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge: Reflections on Power and Possibility
  • Following the Money: Understanding Forum Shopping and the ‘Justice Marketplace’ in Sierra Leone

    Monetary expenses are said to prohibit poor rural litigants from accessing official justice institutions, which are often concentrated in urban centres, thus pushing these litigants towards customary forums. At the same time, the alternative customary courts have been shown to cost more than formal justice institutions such as official magistrates courts. This article examines the economics informing litigants’ choices of judicial forums to contribute to a new analysis beyond state-centred legal pluralism. It argues that how money features in cases at barrays – the unofficial, unrecognised, customary courts in the capital city of Sierra Leone – not only explains why ordinary people engage with (extra)legal processes, but also demonstrates how justice is understood and (re)produced in practice.

  • Documenting the Document: The Forensic Hospital Report and Its Knowledge Moves

    Drawing on case files from a Canadian provincial review board tasked with determining the disposition of persons found ‘not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder’, we explore the role of the forensic hospital report in the production of medico-legal risk knowledges. Through a detailed case study, we show how the report's content and particular material form allow the Board to produce the ‘significantly threatening individual’ – the very thing the Board (and report) are meant to presuppose. We therefore call on scholars to document their documents, and, in the spirit of actor-network theory (ANT), to analytically treat socio-legal objects as active participants in knowledge's creation. By accounting for the ‘knowledge moves’ the hospital report might allow, encourage, or prohibit human actors to make, we hope even ANT sceptics can use these tools to better understand various legal decision-making processes and their effects.

  • Book Review: The Redress of Law: Globalisation, Constitutionalism and Market Capture
  • Breaking Through the Legal Binary: Media Labelling of Dominic Ongwen as a Victim–Perpetrator

    Individuals formerly involved in armed groups are positioned in the victim–perpetrator binary by legal systems and societies. Media participates in this process and influences the relationship between law and society by reproducing or challenging legal and social designations. We assess the relationship between the International Criminal Court's (ICC) prosecution of Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier in Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), and media representations of Ongwen. We conduct a content analysis of 779 Ugandan, African, and international newspapers’ English-language articles published between January 2005 and October 2022. We find that media coverage focuses on Ongwen's adult roles in the group, including as an LRA leader, largely reproducing the ICC's portrayal of the accused. A minority of articles acknowledge a more complex status and increase in frequency once Ongwen's ICC trial is underway. An important faction challenges the ICC's narrative, with non-Africa-based media presenting a more complex depiction of Ongwen.

  • Efficiency Over Accuracy?: Exploring Front-Line Practitioners’ Experiences and Opinions on the “Guilty Plea System”

    While most criminal cases are resolved by a guilty plea, little empirical research has examined guilty plea wrongful convictions. This study explored this issue through semistructured interviews with 27 legal professionals in Queensland, Australia (n = 16 defense lawyers; n = 7 prosecutors; n = 4 magistrates). Driven by a systems and organizational perspective, we conducted a thematic analysis exploring the structural and organizational features that may systematically contribute to erroneous guilty plea convictions. We found an overarching emphasis on efficiency and pressure to quickly resolve cases, coupled with practical constraints impeding legal professionals from ensuring guilty pleas are appropriate and accurate. There was also a general acceptance of false guilty pleas through the justification of “choice,” legitimized by the authoritative precedent set by Meissner v R (1995). The findings indicate the routine nature of erroneous guilty plea convictions and raise important implications regarding the current validity of a guilty plea, as they do not always reflect actual guilt.

  • Coercion, Control and Criminal Responsibility: Exploring Professional Responses to Offending and Suicidality in the Context of Domestically Abusive Relationships

    Significant strides have been made in the law's recognition of harms arising from domestic abuse. In England and Wales, the Serious Crimes Act 2015, and in Scotland, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, have supported a more holistic understanding of the dynamics of abuse and the means by which coercion and control are deployed to cement and supplant perpetrators’ violence. In this article, we explore what the introduction of these offences means in other situations where questions regarding the impact of abuse upon victims’ agency arise: specifically, where victims commit an offence that might have been compelled by abusive behaviour or take their own lives in contexts that might indicate perpetrators’ liability for suicide. In particular, drawing on interviews with professionals across both jurisdictions, we highlight the precarity of recognition of the effects of coercive control and the need to engage in more complicated discussions about when and why context matters.

  • Gendered and Racialised Epistemological Injustice in FGM-safeguarding

    This paper explores FGM-safeguarding in the UK through a decolonial lens. Based on an analysis of the development of law and policy relating to ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ in the UK alongside data collected in focus groups with people of ethnic Somali heritage living in Bristol, we argue that the current legislation and policies, as well as their delivery, are steeped in colonial Othering. We demonstrate that legislative and policy approaches operate through a gendered and generational binary in which non-White mothers are othered as migrants (regardless of citizenship status) for whom anachronistic culture is deemed determinative, whilst their daughters are claimed as British. In this construction, ‘FGM’ operates as the symbolic marker that designates un/belonging: the uncircumcised girl is rescuable and claimed as ‘one of us’, whilst the circumcised mother is considered a mutilated political subject for whom belonging is foreclosed.

Featured documents

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