Posted: 18 April 2023
Bladini, Moa, Sara Uhnoo, and Åsa Wettergren. (2023). ‘It sounds like lived experience’-On empathy in rape trials. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 72.
In this article the intrinsic relation between the formal and the informal aspects of rape trials in Sweden will be scrutinized and discussed, for two main reasons (that are intertwined). Firstly, rape cases are characterized by a word-against-word situation, with few other forms of evidence, and with a rate of convictions much lower than for other criminal cases. The fact that the parties’ statements are placed at the core of the presentation and assessment of the evidence leaves much scope for argumentation about normality, rationality, logic and common sense. Secondly, rape trials have been subject to a significant amount of critique, in public as well as in legal debate due to gendered stereotypes, assumptions about autonomy, objectivity, ideal victims, real rape etc. The article aims to explore and shed some light on parts of the continuum of formality and informality in criminal trials in Sweden. By deconstructing rape trials through the lens of the emotion-sociological concept of empathy, the article contributes to deepened knowledge of the work performed by the legal actors in court in general and their work as empathic translators, in particular. We will focus on a specific part of the empathic process, namely emotion management to stage credible testimonies, in the sense that the stories told by the parties and/or witnesses are framed and presented by legal professionals in court as if they have been acting and reacting normal, natural, reasonable and rational. We present the analysis of the intrinsic relationship between the formal framework and the informal work performed by the legal actors, by exploring how the legal concepts are embodied in stories from everyday life in the trial, framed by the legal actors. The analysis includes a description of the stage at which these trials take place (the objectivity ideals and self-images) and the most important formal aspects and parts of the criminal and procedural regulation of rape trials. The article ends with final conclusions and reflections on the continuum of formality and informality in rape trials. The material in the study from which this article derives consists of observations of 18 rape cases, including written judgments and interviews with legal professionals in these cases.
Posted: 2 January 2023
Nordquist, Cecilia and Stina Bergman Blix (2022). “Expanding Emotional Capital in Court”, Frontiers in Sociology, 7.
The JUSTEMOTIONS team is pleased to announce a new publication in Frontiers in Sociology: “Expanding Emotional Capital in Court”. This article develops the concept of emotional capital by exposing its operation in proceedings between legal elite professionals. We argue that (a) the micro-structural restraints of the interaction order among the participants have to be accounted for in order to understand the dynamics of emotional capital, and; (b) the emotional processes at play have to be expanded beyond feelings of care showing how emotions can be employed to reproduce status and power. Empirical examples from criminal courts in Scotland and the United States demonstrate that judges and prosecutors depend on emotional capital to steer the legal proceedings. Emotional capital is both stable in that acquired capital often can be transferred across fields and volatile in that it presupposes interactional agreement to ensure successful emotional capital employment. In contrast, the lack of such agreement may devalue emotional capital regardless of overall capital wealth. In high status bureaucratic positions, the conversion of emotional capital into symbolic capital not only affects the authority of individual actors but reproduces public trust in governmental institutions.
Blog post: (Dis)passionate Judging
Posted: 29 August, 2022
Journal of Law and Society Conversations: blog post on (Dis)passionate judging
Posted: 16 May, 2022
Minissale (2022) “Il percorso emotivo-cognitivo verso la decisione oggettiva”, in Rivista Trimestrale di Diritto e Procedura Civile.
New publication: ”(Dis)passionate Law Stories: The emotional processes of encoding narratives in court”
Posted: 16 May, 2022
The JUSTEMOTIONS team is pleased to announce a new publication in the Journal of Law and Society: ”(Dis)passionate Law Stories: The emotional processes of encoding narratives in court”. In this conceptual article, we propose that legal professional decision makers’ transformation of narratives in court (encoding) influences their emotional attunement to the stories at hand. First, we argue that the process of encoding is linked to the strict demand for dispassion in legal settings. Second, we introduce three techniques that regulate the emotional processes at play during the encoding of law narratives: demarcation, fragmentation, and proximation. Demarcation and fragmentation produce emotional distance from narratives and their associated emotions, while proximation refers to the deliberate calibration of emotional attunement to law stories to enable legal decision making. Demarcation and fragmentation are sustained by background emotions of ease and interest when stories align with legal requirements, versus disinterest and irritation when ‘too many’ details are introduced. Proximation is regulated through the epistemic emotions of doubt and certainty. By scrutinizing the subtle emotions involved in legal encoding, we problematize the ideal of judicial dispassion.
We are hiring: Researcher
Posted: 16 September, 2021
This two year researcher position includes independent as well as collaborative research work within the project JUSTEMOTIONS. The researcher will continue the project’s research in the USA with an affiliation to Vanderbilt University via Professor Terry Maroney. The first year will be spent collecting data in the US. During the second year, the work also includes drafting and submitting manuscripts to peer-reviewed international journals.
Closing date: October 7, 2021
See full description and apply here.
New publication: ”Prosecutors’ habituation of emotion management in Swedish courts”
Posted: 15 September, 2021
The JUSTEMOTIONS team is pleased to announce a new publication in Law & Social Inquiry: ”Prosecutors’ habituation of emotion management in Swedish courts”. The article examines the crucial professional emotion management underlying prosecutors’ work in court, analyzing dimensions of prosecutors’ habituation of the tacit feeling rules governing professional emotion management. Contrasting previous research, we focus on emotion management necessary to perform frontstage (in court) professionalism as a prosecutor. The analysis builds on interviews and shadowing with 41 prosecutors at five offices in Sweden. The theoretical framework rests on sociological theories of emotion adapted to the legal field. We divide the analysis into three key dimensions of habituation pertaining to the feeling rules of confidence and mastering anxiety associated with an independent performance; the feeling rules of emotional distance and a balanced display associated with performing the objective party; and the playful and strategic improvisation of feeling rules associated with relaxed emotional presence. The routinization of feeling rules and the gradual backgrounding of related emotion management leads to habituation. The findings enhance understanding of emotion management skills as part of tacit knowledge conveyed in the legal professions where emotion-talk and emotional reflexivity are still unacknowledged. The article also contributes to the largely US dominated previous research by adding a civil law perspective on prosecutorial emotion management.
New publication: “Drizzling sympathy: Ideal victims and flows of sympathy in Swedish courts”
Posted: 23 August, 2021
The JUSTEMOTIONS team is pleased to announce a new publication in International Review of Victimology: “Drizzling sympathy: Ideal victims and flows of sympathy in Swedish courts”. By connecting sociological perspectives on sympathy with the concept of ‘ideal victims’, this article examines how sympathy forms and informs legal thought and practices in relation to victim status in Swedish courts. In its broadest sense, sympathy can be understood as an understanding and care for someone else’s suffering and in many contexts victimization and sympathy are densely entangled. However, since ideals of objectivity and neutrality prevail in court, emotional norms are narrow and sympathy is met with suspicion. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Swedish courts, I argue that while sympathetic feelings are mostly backgrounded, they are still a central part of court proceedings and deliberations. The main findings suggest that prosecutors and victims’ counsel use ‘sympathy cues’ to evoke the judges’ concern for the complainants and to facilitate their empathic imagination of the complainant’s situation. In relation to this finding, judges engage in emotion work in order to not be affected by these sympathy cues. The study also shows that in encounters with ‘ideal victims’ who perform a playful resistance to their victimization, legal actors show sympathy more freely and accept moments of temporary relief from the normal interaction order in court.
New publication: “Making Independent Decisions Together: Rational emotions in legal adjudication”
Posted: 13 April, 2021
The JUSTEMOTIONS team is pleased to announce a new publication in Symbolic Interaction: “Making Independent Decisions Together: Rational emotions in legal adjudication”. This is a conceptual paper that advances the study of rational emotions by developing a model of how to incorporate the relational and situational structures in which rational decisions are made. The focus is on bureaucratic rational decision-making, which is constituted by a bounded process including several smaller decisions made over time and by several decision-makers. The model demonstrates that different emotive-cognitive complexes are actualized at different stages of this process and that the (assumed solitary) arbiters are in effect immersed in social interaction. Importantly it shows that rational decision-making is not a dichotomy between emotional bias and detached fairness but a delicate balance between having sufficient solidarity to ensure that the bounded process is upheld and ensuring enough space for participants to demonstrate their independence. The paper also discusses how relational structures at the macro level feed into micro-level interactions, including emotional motivations and behavioral expectations.
New publication: “Comparing Culturally Embedded Frames of Judicial Dispassion”
Posted: 24 June, 2021
The JUSTEMOTIONS team is pleased to announce a new publication in Research Handbook on Law and Emotions: “Comparing Culturally Embedded Frames of Judicial Dispassion”. The aim of this chapter is to outline a theoretical framework for the comparative study of emotions in Western legal systems of different countries. Our focus is on the legal actors, and our primary interest is how internal legal culture – conceptualized as ‘the emotive-cognitive judicial frame’ – is embedded in a broader context of a socio-culturally specific emotional regime. The emotive-cognitive judicial frame combines national emotion norms with universal professional emotion norms, deriving from the Western regime of judicial dispassion. The chapter first reviews the relation between rationality and emotion and its implications for the legal system; thereafter presents the mainly historical research into the socio-cultural variations of emotional regimes; continues to suggest a basic theoretical toolkit applicable in the comparative study of emotive-cognitive judicial frames in different national emotional regimes; and some concrete methods and an agenda for future research.
Vi anställer: Postdoktor
Posted: 2 November, 2019
Denna tvååriga postdoktorala tjänst inbegriper både eget arbete och nära samarbete med andra forskare inom projektet JUSTEMOTIONS. Postdoktorn kommer att både sammanställa, koda och analysera redan insamlat material, samt samla in kompletterande data. Den som får tjänsten förväntas utföra högkvalitativ forskning och publicera i internationella vetenskapliga tidskrifter.
Sista ansökningsdag: 25 november 2019
Klicka här för mer information och ansökan
We are hiring: Postdoctoral fellow
Posted: 1 May, 2019
This two year postdoctoral position includes independent as well as collaborative research work within the project JUSTEMOTIONS. The first year will be spent collecting data in the US working with Professor Terry Maroney of Vanderbilt University, The post doc is expected to perform high level research and publish in international, scientific journals.
Closing date: 22 May 2019
See full description and apply here. Klicka här för svenska.
Posted: 4 April, 2019
Emeritus Centennial Distinguished Professor of Law Susan Bandes will visit Uppsala University on a Fulbright Expert Award in collaboration with the JUSTEMOTIONS project 13-17 May. During her stay, Professor Bandes will take part in a workshop (see below), hold seminars, lectures and advice the research project.
Posted: 4 April, 2019
JUSTEMOTIONS organizes a workshop on LAW & EMOTION - Empathy, Objectivity and Remorse, 13-14 May in Engelska parken, Uppsala University. For pdf program, click here.