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Accueil > Colloques, journées d’étude > 50. Projet ANR Just-India (2009-2012)

"Through the Lens of Law. Power and Society in India

Workshop organized by Daniela Berti, Gilles Tarabout and Raphaël Voix, 7-8 January 2013, EHESS (Réseau Asie), Paris

For anthropologists and historians, judicial practices and their discursive productions provide a way of studying tensions between lofty ideals such as neutrality, objectivity, equality, secularism, and everyday-life interactions and decisions where cultural, social, and political factors play a major role. It is also an area where cultural transformations and social reforms result not so much from a party or a political leader’s ideological programme as from specific decisions taken within a framework of concepts, categories and proceedings, the technicality of which is barely understood outside the professional sphere.

Although this is common to all legal contexts, and especially to a common law context, it comes across even more clearly in a post-colonial society like India where both legal acts and rules of procedure were initially introduced and formulated by people from a different social and historical context. Since Independence, this complex judiciary machine has been taken over by the Indian elite and made into one of the most powerful tools of governance in the country. It aims at regulating a society which nevertheless remains largely based on local servitudes of religion, gender, age, and caste status, and on territorial, kinship and feudal allegiances – which are all highly coercive mechanisms through which authority is still exercised at rural level.

Since its inception the Just-India project aimed at studying these interactions between the state and local society through the lens of law, while taking into account the commitments that India has made both at national and international level – as regards, for example, the legal protection of "underprivileged" groups, its environmental policy, narcotics control, and human rights. These interactions may trigger conflicts or misunderstandings, whenever the state’s commitment goes against local forms of relationships or against local economic or political interests ; or they may cause reciprocal adjustments and adaptations whenever the state or society strives to seek alternative solutions or negotiations.

From this perspective, over the last four years, the members of our project have developed ethnographies of court cases and of deliberations at local level, and have studied case reports and narratives in order to understand judicial processes within their broader social context, as tools of governance. It has been our assumption that the details of people’s interactions, verbal exchanges and power relationships point to the ways in which state power is implemented. This workshop is the opportunity to take stock of some of the results of these studies, and to reflect on possible research in the future.


Discussant : Anthony Good (University of Edinburgh)

Jean-Louis Halpérin (ENS, Paris) :
Some Specificity About Law and Justice in India, from a Comparative Point of View

Daniela Berti (CNRS, CEH) :
Emotions Under Scrutiny. Suicide Notes as Legal Evidence in Indian Courtrooms


Discussant : Véronique Bouillier (CNRS, CEIAS)

Catherine Clémentin-Ojha (EHESS, CEIAS) : As the Learned Judge Said…

Pratiksha Baxi (JNU, Delhi) : Judicial Interpretation of Rape as Atrocity

Gilles Tarabout (CNRS, LESC)
Un)spoken Values in Judgments. Cases from South India


Discussant : Gérard Toffin (CNRS, CEH)

Parveez Mody (University of Cambridge) :
Love Jurisdiction and Love-Marriage Rights in India

Chandan Gowda (Azim Premji University, Bangalore) : The Devil is in the Implementation : The Prevention of Atrocities Act vs. the Police and the Courts


Discussant : Antoine Garapon (IHEJ)

Jean-Philippe Dequen (SOAS, University of London) :
A Journey to the Brink of India’s Legal Landscape : Jammu and Kashmir’s Judicial Scenery

Jayanth K. Krishnan (Indiana University-Bloomington), with Centre for Social Justice (Ahmedabad), Jagori (Dharmashala), & National Centre for Advocacy Studies (Pune) : Grassroots Litigation and Rights-Awareness in India

Raphaël Voix (ANR Just-India / CEIAS) :
Great Wise Men and the Judges. Fighting for Proper Governance in the City of Bliss

Zoé Headley (CNRS, CEIAS) : A Century of Penalties and Punishments Under the Banyan Tree