Cultural evidence in courts of law

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter examines the problems arising when culture is teleologized in courts of law, by being treated as ‘objective evidence’ or as the direct cause of persecution or delinquency. It starts by explaining the role of expert witnesses, and the kinds of evidence they can and cannot provide. It then addresses the widespread use, especially in the United States, of the ‘cultural defense’ in cases involving immigrant or minority defendants. It summarizes anthropological approaches to the notion of culture; the ongoing debate between rights-based and culture-based approaches to international law; and the impact upon anthropology of current notions of legal and cultural pluralism. Finally, it briefly addresses the treatment of anthropological evidence in English courts, with special reference to asylum appeals under the rubric of the 1951 Refugee Convention
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Objects of Evidence
Subtitle of host publicationAnthropological Approaches to the Production of Knowledge
EditorsMatthew Engelke
ISBN (Print)978-1-4051-9296-5
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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