Center for the Study of Law and Culture Fellows 2002-2003
MARIA MERCEDES GOMEZ GARCIA
Exclusionary Practices: Hate Crimes Law and the Negotiation of the Lesbian ‘Other'
My project examines the symbolic production and negotiation of lesbian identities as distinct from gay identities in hate crimes cases. In particular, I explore how state juridical practices shape and categorize lesbian identities, how these identities are negotiated and contested by victims and advocates, and how the motivation factor compares in lesbian and gay hate crimes. I engage the problem of hate crimes law through an operational distinction between the notion of discrimination and the notion of exclusion. This distinction comes from the existing tensions between two paradigms of political theorizing: the paradigm on recognition as social justice and the paradigm on discourse theory. I engage the literature on recognition to formulate the notion of discrimination. Drawing on the work of Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth I reformulate the struggle for recognition as a struggle against discrimination. The legislative gesture of including sexual orientation as bias in hate crimes law is an antidiscriminatory practice to ensure gays and lesbians equal protection. I engage discourse theory to explore how antidiscriminatory measures reach an impasse in the case of hate crimes. Drawing on the work of Judith Butler and Ernesto Laclau, I examine the notion of exclusion and how it operates in systems of signification. In hate crimes the motivation of the perpetrator operates in the symbolic register as the victim is perceived as a radical challenge to social and moral norms, or the system. Therefore, the elimination of the ‘other' appears as the condition for the survival of such norms. My project explores the theoretical and legal tensions that antidiscriminatory measures encounter when dealing with acts that belong to the register of exclusion (hate crimes). It will contribute not only to an understanding of how cultural discourses inform policy and legal practices using the literature on recognition as social justice and discourse theory, but will add to the recognition/discourse theory debate by exploring the tensions between discrimination and exclusion in anti lesbian violence as interpretative categories for issues of social justice.
Law and the Reproduction of Inequalities in Daily Life: An Ethnographic Study of an Istanbul Urban Poor District and Its Civil Court
My research project is based on a twenty-month ethnographic study in two locations i) three neighborhoods in an internally migrant urban poor district of Istanbul, ii) the mid-level civil court that has jurisdiction over these areas. The research project employed methods of participant and non-participant observation, in-depth interviews and content analysis in order to understand both how people imagine the law and how they act upon it. I have examined the way conceptions of legality and citizenship are constructed from below and maintained in everyday life legal encounters. The project combines this analysis with an exploration of the ways in which everyday interactions in the legal field reproduce social hierarchies and inequalities.
Studying these questions in the context of Turkey is particularly interesting because of its mixed legacy of both family and kinship networks and rule-of-law like aspirations to rational-bureaucratic forms of governing. In the everyday life of the law (in its inclusive meaning as an amalgam of rules, persons and institutions) the formal and the informal routinely interact for the practical solution of legal problems and resolution of disputes. In this enmeshing of the formal and informal inequalities are reproduced in multiple axes. While some of these axes such as education, gender or economic standing are rather established in scholarship others such as place of origin are more specific to the context at hand. By examining the mundane operation of the law and the ways in which inequalities are reproduced in this field, the project has become a study of practices of governing and their effects in terms of relations of power.