Historical narrative and legal evidence: Judging Chagossians’ High Court testimonies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article interrogates the production of legal evidence in a compensation case brought unsuccessfully against the U.K. government by displaced Chagos islanders from the Indian Ocean. It explores the distinctions and overlaps between journalistic, political, and legal activism, and the processes by which the Chagossians’ legal team attempted to reformulate their clients’ historical narratives into legal evidence. It argues that processes of transcription and translation concealed the deployment in Chagossian oral traditions of rhetorical devices such as collective narrative and standardized history, hampering their legal team’s attempt to reformulate their narratives into individual eyewitness evidence. The judge interpreted the consequent inconsistencies as unreliable evidence. This article argues that, given their clients’ unfamiliarity with legal processes and with laws of evidence, legal teams must pay more attention to their clients’ narrative techniques and linguistic (and vocabulary) barriers, and work to prevent such features from having a detrimental effect on their clients’ cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228–253
Number of pages26
JournalPoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Chagos islanders
  • displacement
  • collective narrative
  • evidence
  • legal activism


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