Hermine Wiersinga, judge in the criminal court of appeal at the Hague, shares with EURO-EXPERT her paper

Here there is an extract of the paper H.C. (Hermine) Wiersinga, The Judge and the Anthropologist: common ground?, Cultural expertise in Dutch courts, October 2019, with some reflections about judges and anthropologists working partly in the same field.

Please read it and share your thoughts!

“Judges are (trying to) focus on the concrete specific acts of individuals and concrete proof, but they have to use certain ‘frames’ – common knowledge, ‘narratives’ – to reach their judgments. Here is the common ground. Anthropologists are trying to find out what are the stories, told within a group: the narratives that are binding or dividing people and shared within a culture. Abstractions – ‘group knowledge’ ‘collective memories’, shared cultural perceptions and assumptions become visible, come to life, through sharing, by stories people tell each other, in scenarios of the drama involved in society, basically within ‘narratives’ (Comp. Jeanne Gaakeer, Judging from Experience. Law. Praxis, Humanities, Edinburgh university press 2019).  These may be big narratives (religious, f.i.), or small ones (f.e. about remorse and regrets). When we put it like this, a judge has really something in common with an anthropologist. Admittedly: he is not doing it the way an anthropologist is thinking about narratives. His way of using it is almost subconscious. He is categorizing people in those ‘micro-narratives’ hardly knowing how or why.”

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