The Politics of Place: Practice, Process, and Kinship in Domestic Violence Courts

By Lazarus-Black, Mindie; McCall, Patricia L. | Human Organization, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Place: Practice, Process, and Kinship in Domestic Violence Courts


Lazarus-Black, Mindie, McCall, Patricia L., Human Organization


This article describes the processing of domestic violence cases in Trinidad, with implications for the implementation of domestic violence law more generally in other common law courts, including the U.S. It is based on fieldwork in magistrate's courts and a statistical analysis of domestic violence court records-the first of its kind for the English-speaking Caribbean. We identify a "politics of place" that makes courts "discordant locales" (Frohmann 2004), places in which persons requesting protection orders will encounter different forms of structural, practical, and ideological resistance to their claims to rights. We explore the extent to which applications for protection orders are dismissed, withdrawn, or awarded protective action, uncovering differences in case dispositions between the courts. Our analysis highlights the architecture, organization, and workloads of the courts, contrasting judicial styles, and the role of kinship ideology and practice in shaping litigants' use of the courts. We reveal a "public secret" (Taussig 1999) about domestic violence litigation of theoretical and practical interest to anthropologists, scholars and activists concerned with domestic violence, and students of law and society research.

Key words: domestic violence, anthropology of law, courts, kinship, Caribbean

In her study of rape and sexual assault cases, Frohmann coined the phrase "discordant locales" (2004:285) to reference places such as the "four-comer hustlers' territory" or "Center Heights," a section of the city where people go to purchase drugs or sex. As she shows, prosecutors only rarely try rape cases from discordant locales. Prosecutors know juries do not convict when an alleged sex crime has occurred in such a place.

We have another use for the term "discordant locale." We use the concept in this article to draw attention to another politics of place, a politics that transpires in courtrooms as legal professionals implement domestic violence law. Our analysis is based on a case study of two courts in Trinidad, a nation heir to British common-law tradition, possessed of a hierarchy of lower and higher courts similar to those of Great Britain and the United States, and the first nation in the English-speaking Caribbean to pass comprehensive domestic violence legislation.1 Although our case study is based in Trinidad, our discussion of the politics of place is of theoretical and practical interest to anthropologists, scholars and activists concerned with domestic violence, and students of law and society research, on four accounts.

First, anthropologists of law have explored for some time how, why, and to what extent law can (or cannot) realize lawmakers' intentions to protect subordinated peoples from the injustices they encounter. Critical studies in legal anthropology reveal the complex interplay and intersection of structures of domination that create and reinforce class, racial, ethnic, and gender hierarchies, and demonstrate how legal codes and processes sometimes assist and sometimes fail those who seek legal redress. The anthropological study of domestic violence and law is more recent, but already promising in its theoretical and pragmatic implications. This research points with certitude both to the pervasiveness of domestic violence across time and space (Counts, Brown, and Campbell 1992; Levinson 1996), and to the fact that once such behavior is prohibited in law, its victims will turn in impressive numbers to the courts (Lazarus-Black 2001, forthcoming; Merry 1994, 1995, 2000; Ptacek 1999; Trinch 2003; Vatuk 2001 ; Winner 1998). Thus our study contributes to the international study of women and violence, and especially to local scholarship on women and domestic violence law in the English-speaking Caribbean (Bissessar 2000; Clarke 1998; Creque 1995; Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean [ECLAC] 2001; Ffolkes 1997; Gopaul and Cain 1996; Joseph, Henriques, and Ekeh 1998; Lazarus-Black 2001, 2003; Mohammed 1989, 1991; Pargass and Clarke 2003; Philips 2000; Pratt 2000; Rawlins 2000; Robinson 1999, 2000; Spooner 2001 ; Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence 2005).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Politics of Place: Practice, Process, and Kinship in Domestic Violence Courts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.