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In March 2012, a study into sentencing disparities shocked the Dutch Judiciary. Three researchers of the University of Leiden have demonstrated that defendants’ ‘foreign’ or Dutch ‘appearance’, as well as their capacity to speak Dutch, influence judges’ sentencing decisions:

Detail Summary
Date 27 November 2017
Time 15:30 - 17:00

Defendants who both ‘appear foreign’ and who do not speak Dutch are more likely to be sentenced with a prison sentence than those who both ‘appear’ and speak Dutch (Wermink, de Keijser and Schuyt 2012). Several actors in both politics and media quickly made up their minds: the judiciary may promise to treat like cases alike, yet the data clearly suggested that the members of the judiciary are at least somewhat affected by discriminatory stereotypes. Judges themselves, however, were rather piqued. Two judges replied to the study’s findings in the Dutch Jurist’s Magazine, where they wonder whether the researchers have ‘any idea’ as to how judges decide on actual cases.

Irene van Oorschot: "I want to show that this controversy pivots on two different conceptions of what it means to treat like cases alike.

Starting with the recognition that research methods are best conceived of as performative, rather than simple representational devices, this lecture takes up the challenge raised by these judges (and others like them), in that it wants to zoom in on the way the Leiden researchers have conceptualized and enacted similarities and differences between cases in their methodological approach to sentencing. It pays particular attention to the way national and phenotypical measures of differences between individual defendants are uneasily and precariously linked to generate a measure of their ‘foreignness’. However, this lecture will also seek to contrast the researchers' modes of doing difference with judges' own, more narrative understanding of individual cases. In these narrative practice of case-making, ethnic or racial modes of making differences are, for understandable reasons, conspicuously absent.

As such, this lecture aims to attend for the specific ways our worlds are made and ordered by different kinds of expert and made amenable to specific questions and interventions."

About the lecturer

Irene van Oorschot is a post-doctoral researcher in the RaceFaceID project (principal investigator: Prof. Amade M’charek) with interests in pragmatist philosophy, ethnography, the study of law, bureaucracy and expert knowledges, and feminist and queer theorizing.

Her previous work— her dissertation Ways of Case-Making, to be defended on February 2, 2018 - addressed local epistemic practices in a Dutch criminal court and focused in particular on the role of the case file in mediating these practices.

Within the RaceFaceID project, she concentrates on how differences between individuals and populations come to matter at the intersection of legal modes and scientific/forensic modes of knowledge-making.

Lecturer's webpage

About the seminar series

In this seminar series the relevance and irrelevance of race is being discussed as an object and concept of research in order to explore ways to talk about race without naturalizing differences. The series goes beyond a standard definition of race, one that is allegedly relevant everywhere, and situates race in specific practices of research. In addition the series gives room to the various different versions of race that can be found in the European context and explores when and how populations, religions, and cultures become naturalized and racialized. Scholars from different (inter)disciplinary fields (such as genetics, anthropology, philosophy, cultural studies, history, political sciences, science and technology studies) are invited to address the issue of race through a paper presentation. The seminar is held every six weeks at the University of Amsterdam. Go to webpage seminar series.

Roeterseilandcampus - building B/C/D (entrance B/C)
Roeterseilandcampus - building B/C/D (entrance B/C)

Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
1018 WV Amsterdam