The Legal Case File as Border Object: On Self‐Reference and Other‐Reference in Criminal Law
29 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2015
Date Written: December 2015
What do case files do? With help of an ethnographic study on the care, maintenance, and use of legal case files in a Dutch, inquisitorial context, we work through Latour's and Luhmann's conceptualizations of law. We understand these case files as enacting and performing both self‐reference and other‐reference. We coin the term border object to denote the way the legal case file becomes the nexus between two worlds it itself performatively produces: the world of ‘law itself’ on the one hand, and the ‘world out there’ on the other. As such, our discussion offers clues for a partial reconciliation of Latour's and Luhmann's conceptualizations of law: while Luhmann's insistence on other‐referential operations assist in showing how law forges an ‘epistemic relationship’ with the realities it seeks to judge, Latour's concentration on the materialities of epistemic practices assists in situating these other‐referential and self‐referential operations.
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