Forschungsschwerpunkt: Rechtsanthropologie

Law and order in urban India

Prof. Julia Eckert

Studying everyday policing in Mumbai, I analyses police interpretations of law and the multifaceted social, economic and political relations that such interpretation is embedded in. I thereby trace the negotiations of rights, norms of justice and authority that occur in everyday interactions between citizens and state officials, as well as among state officials themselves. I am particularly interested in how security legislation has come to define the limits of legitimate political articulation.

Aiding and abetting: juridifiying transnational liability

Prof. Julia Eckert

The attribution of responsibility in world society is increasingly a field of contestation. On the one hand, the perception of causal and moral links reaching far in space and time are ever more explicitly pronounced; on the other hand, the very complexity of these links often engenders a fragmentation of responsibility both in law as well as in moral commitment. Current institutions of responsibility in law appear to abstract from enabling contexts, resulting in appeals to a global community of concern without corresponding obligatory commitments. Focussing on the use of „aiding and abetting“ in strategic litigation as well as jurisdiction, I trace the contestations over global responsibility and liability.

Doing Credibility; The Construction of Credibility in Swiss Asylum Procedures

Prof. Julia Eckert, Laura Affolter, Johanna Fuchs, Raphaël Rey

Wird in der Schweiz ein Asylentscheid gefällt, entscheiden Beamte und RichterInnen nicht nur darüber, ob ein Asylsuchender der Flüchtlingsdefinition entspricht, sondern sie prüfen auch die Glaubhaftigkeit der Aussage des Asylsuchenden. Das vorliegende Forschungsprojekt untersucht den Prozess, in dem über die Glaubhaftigkeit von Asylvorbringen entschieden wird. Im Zentrum stehen die vier Hauptakteure im Asylverfahren: Asylsuchende, RechtsberaterInnen, Beamte, die im Staatssekretariat für Migration arbeiten, sowie RichterInnen und Gerichtsschreibende des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts. Das Projekt analysiert die Bedeutungen, welche  Glaubhaftigkeit und Unglaubhaftigkeit im Asylverfahren zugeschrieben werden und wie Glaubhaftigkeit im Entscheidungsprozess verhandelt wird.

Link to the Project

Law in Protest: Transnational Struggles for Corporate Liability

Prof. Julia Eckert, Angela Lindt M.A.

Negative impacts on the environment and on the livelihood of local populations caused by transnational corporations (TNCs) operating in the so-called Global South have become a politically contested issue. Holding the companies involved or their employees legally liable has often been difficult because of jurisdictional or governance obstacles. Regardless the difficult legal situation, there are worldwide growing attempts to bring TNCs to court for violations of human rights or for serious environmental damages. By referring to a transnational discourse of human rights and by using international narratives of law and justice, local protest groups make use of law as an instrument to legitimize their claims and to gain international support for their struggles. In most of the court cases social movements, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and transnational networks of human rights lawyers play a major role. These networks often include not only European cause lawyers and the concerned plaintiffs in the operation area of the defendant TNC, but also link plaintiff groups, local NGOs and lawyers of independent court cases in different countries.
A considerable gap in research exists concerning how advocacy organisations and local plaintiffs influence each other with respect to normative evaluation, political goals and litigation strategies. The project “Law in Protest: Transnational Struggles for Corporate Liability” enquires into these changes, examining the normative change born from these litigation processes both among local plaintiffs and in the legal norms adopted to litigate against TNCs. Our project assumes that lawsuits and the practices of “case-making” are social processes that, on the one hand, reflect existing power relations between actors involved, but, on the other hand, provide space for negotiations about norms, interpretations and goals.
By conducting empirical ethnographic research on the work of lawyers and human rights activists in different settings and places, the overarching aim of the project is to find out whether the strategic application of national law leads to normative - legal as well as social - change. We content that by a) enquiring into the evolving strategies of local plaintiffs using national laws against TNCs, b) the strategic litigation of cause lawyering by transnational legal NGOs, and c) the relationships between these different actors involved in the court cases we can gain insights into the normative changes occurring at these different levels. We will analyse the practice of strategic litigation applied by cause lawyers in Germany and the United Kingdom (subproject A) as well as by social movements and local NGOs in Peru (subproject B). We investigate how local protest movements and international law firms introduce transnational discourses of human rights and social justice into individual national court cases with the intent to enforce social and political change on the local level. By studying these transnational human rights networks in the field of corporate liability, the project deals with a key issue of contemporary social anthropology.

The Moral Economy of Assam Tea Production

Anna-Lena Wolf, M.A.

The current PhD project is an ethnography on the moral economy of tea production on tea plantations in Assam. I am analysing how various entangled and contradictory moral frameworks – underlying the plantation economy of Assam tea – are conceived of, embodied, negotiated and transformed ‘…to understand the everyday-grounded logics of macro-economic (and political) processes…’ (Palomera & Vetta 2016: 428). I am furthermore interested in how structural inequalities are generated within/by the tea plantation economy in Assam and how they are maintained or challenged, for example, by forms of state regulation, moral sentiments or forms of protest.

The emergence of global tax payers: the (re-)making of international business tax law

Prof. Julia Eckert, Dr. des. Johanna Mugler

This ethnographic research project explores the emergence of global tax norms and the negotiation and making of international tax law. By studying the actors and the processes through which international tax law develops, this project contributes to the understanding of the making and change of these international laws and global norms. More