Respect for diversity has been at the forefront of political accession to the European Union since 1993 and socio-legal scholarship has developed articulated reflections on the accommodation of ethnic and religious minorities in Europe. Country experts have been instructed with increasing frequency in judicial and pre- judicial proceedings involving members of diasporic communities. In some common law countries the role of the expert witness has expanded to systematically assist the judge when litigants or defendants belong to minorities; in most civil law countries, similar roles are played by translators and cultural mediators, including notaries and lawyers. Cultural expertise is sometimes used in order to avoid excessive judicialisation. A comprehensive assessment of cultural expertise was hindered by the lack of an adequate conceptualisation and contextualisation in the socio-legal sciences. Hence our question:  Cultural Expertise in Europe: What is it useful for?


Livia Holden, ed. (2019) Cultural Expertise and Socio-Legal Studies, Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Austin Sarat Series ed., special issue 78, Emerald.


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  • Livia Holden, Legal Pluralism and Governance in South Asia and Diasporas (Taylor & Francis 2015)
    Legal Pluralism and Governance in South Asia and the Diasporas contributes to the already heated debate about legal pluralism and the ontology of law by shifting the attention toward the relationship between what is treated as law and its impact on governance at the fora of dispute resolution. This book addresses sensitive issues such as gender rights and alternative dispute resolution in India, Hindu and Muslim personal laws in South Asia and in Europe, cross-border white violence, the change to Islamic legal traditions under Western domination, women’s inheritance in Pakistan and in the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan, indigenous rights and resistance at the India-Bangladesh border, and customary laws of nomadic groups in India. The authors deploy a variety of views that point at the pros and cons of legal pluralism and also integrates its opponents. They show how constructions of identity, religion, and power have historically informed the conceptualisation of secularism which may be an ideal, sometimes able to provide for perceptions of accountable governance, but also generating dividing worldviews. This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law.
  • Livia Holden (ed), Cultural Expertise and Litigation: Patterns, Conflicts, Narratives (Routledge 2011)
    Cultural Expertise and Litigation addresses the role of social scientists as a source of expert evidence, and is a product of their experiences and observations of cases involving litigants of South Asian origin. What is meant in court by "culture," "custom" and "law"? How are these concepts understood by witnesses, advocates, judges and litigants? How far are cross-cultural understandings facilitated - or obscured - in the process? What strategies are adopted? And which ones turn out to be successful in court? How is cultural understanding – and misunderstanding – produced in these circumstances? And how, moreover, do the decisions in these cases not only reflect, but impact, upon the law and the legal procedure? Cultural Expertise and Litigation addresses these questions, as it elicits the patterns, conflicts and narratives that characterize the legal role of social scientists in a variety of de facto plural settings – including immigration and asylum law, family law, citizenship law and criminal law.
  • Livia Holden, Hindu Divorce: A Legal Anthropology (Ashgate 2008)
    This study investigates the place of Hindu divorce in the Indian legal system and considers whether it offers a way out of a matrimonial crisis situation for women. Using the narratives of the social actors involved, it poses questions about the relationship between traditional jurisdictions located in rural areas and the larger legal culture of towns and cities in India, and also in the UK and USA. The multidisciplinary approach draws on research from the social sciences, feminist and legal studies and will be of interest to students and scholars of law, anthropology and sociology.
  • Livia Holden, Cultural Expertise and Socio-Legal Studies (Emerald, Austin Sarat Series 2019)
    This special issue of Studies in Law, Politics, and Society aims to foster a dialogue that is inclusive, constructive, and innovative in order to lay the basis for evaluating the usefulness and impact of cultural expertise in modern litigation. It investigates the scope of cultural expertise as a new socio-legal concept that broadly concerns the use of social sciences in connection with rights and the solution of conflicts. While the definition of cultural expertise is new, the conflicts it applies to are not, and these range from criminal law to civil law, including international human rights. In this special issue, socio-legal scientists with interdisciplinary backgrounds scrutinize the applicability of the notion of cultural expertise in Europe and the rest of the World. Cases include murder, female genital mutilation, earthquake claims, Islamic law, underage marriages, child custody, adoption, land rights, and asylum. The authors debate on a variety of themes, such as legal pluralism, ethnicity, causal determinism, reification of culture, and the “culturalization” of defendants. The volume concludes with an overview of the ethical implications of the definition of cultural expertise and suggestions for a way forward.

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