Laws and stories : an ethnographic study of Maltese legal representation
This thesis is the outcome of anthropological fieldwork in Malta, focusing on the process of legal representation during court litigation. Paul Ricoew's (1984) theory of narration is applied to enhance understanding of legal representation. It highlights the social uses of narrative as a discursive vehicle mediating between litigants' subjective experience and paradigmatic legal rules. It is argued that legal representation can be fruitfully investigated from the standpoint of the story-telling relations involved. The relations of production, exchange and consumption of evidence before the Maltese courts are then explored. It is shown how clients' stories are often attempts to control socially distant lawyers by engulfing them in patronage relationships. Lawyers' diffident reactions are in turn derived from their efforts to balance between patronage and professional ideals of detachment. This is reflected in the way lawyers draft judicial acts during litigation, where 'patron’ lawyers tend to give most weight to the subjunctive stories' of clients. This same tension between paradigmatic legal rules and subjunctive stories' also characterises the production of testimony in court. Both court-room litigation and adjudication operate to produce a single narrative version of the facts. This reflects the moral pressure which stories place on judges, compelling them to reinterpret the legal rules. Finally these observations are embedded within Maltese society and their theoretical implications elaborated. This thesis demonstrates how court litigation is the site of disguised processes of abstraction and contextualisation, where the abstracting of 'paradigmatic narratives' founds legal entitlement and the narrative contextualisation of legal rules leads to their re-interpretation. This indicates that legal rules are closer to social experience than is often thought and illuminates the relationship between legal and anthropological representation. Recent anthropological trends to resort to narrative modes of description are seen to be implicitly juridical.