Local courts as transnational actors: an interdisciplinary and empirical approach

30 May to 31 May

Coordinators: Sharon Weill (The American University of Paris/ Sciences Po), Sara Dezalay (Université Catholique de Lille)

Description of the meeting

Lower national courts are increasingly asked to perform a transnational role and they are directly involved in major geopolitical issues such as conflicts, climate change, migration, and terrorism. Their role as international players, however, has been largely overlooked and such analysis is usually limited to the realm of national constitutional/supreme courts.

Studies of lower courts are still conducted essentially within a narrow national context, or in a comparative way on transversal topical issues. They are carried out either through the lens of bureaucracy and process (Feeley, 1979; Latour 2002), or through the lens of social control (Foucault, 1975; Garland, 2001) addressing the management of dangerous populations and the state’s moral control (Feeley & Simon, 1992, Fassin 2017).

With the exception of supreme courts, studies of courts do not usually extend their analysis to international relations. Transnational legal research has cut large swaths in tracking legal globalization dynamics. At the same time it tends to overlook the local management of justice (Halliday and Shaffer, 2015). The routine legal practices of national legal actors, such as lower courts, which are tasked with dealing with thousands of people, remain under-studied in the global context (Hodgson, 2010).

Fulfilling the research gap on the increasingly transnational role of lower national criminal and administrative courts responds to the growing need to “re-localize” studies within their geopolitical context and to analyze the trans/national from “within” through a bottom-up approach based on prolonged localized ethnographies (see for example, Baczko, 2021; Christensen, 2017; Dezalay,  2015; Lefranc, 2020; Massoud, 2019; Palmer, 2021; Shaffer & Ginsburg, 2012; Weill, 2020).

The proposed workshop builds on extended localized research, aiming to track interconnections within the transnational legal order produced by, and reflected on, national lower courts.

For more information: 

Workshop Coordination Team

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