Research Handbook on Law and Courts
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Research Handbook on Law and Courts

Edited by Susan M. Sterett and Lee D. Walker

The Research Handbook on Law and Courts provides a systematic analysis of new work on courts as governing institutions. Authors consider how courts have taken on regulating fundamental categories of inclusion and exclusion, including citizenship rights. Courts’ centrality to governance is addressed in sections on judicial processes, sub-national courts, and political accountability, all analyzed in multiple legal/political systems. Other chapters turn to analyzing the worldwide push for diversity in staffing courts. Finally, the digitization of records changes both court processes and studying courts. Authors included in the Handbook discuss theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches to studying courts as governing institutions. They also identify promising areas of future research.
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Chapter 26: Implicit and explicit boundaries of belonging: indigenous and minority identities

Kati Nieminen


This chapter discusses the role of the courts in drawing boundaries of identity and belonging in the majority and minority populations and indigenous peoples. The topic is approached with two examples. First, the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the so called headscarf debate is discussed from the perspective of (re)producing the French citizen subject in the case of S.A.S. v. France. It is argued that while on the surface the case concerns the relationship between individual rights and general interests of the society, implicitly the Court participates in a debate over belonging. The second example examines the role of the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court in determining who belongs in the Sámi people, which is the only recognized indigenous people in the European Union. In this example the role of the court to determine belonging is explicit, as in Finland it is ultimately for the Supreme Administrative Court to determine who can be included in the Sámi Parliament’s electoral roll. The struggles in the examples are opposite: while the Sámi struggle for preserving their indigenous identity and resist assimilating to the majority population, the Muslim woman wearing the full face veil invites the French society to recognize her as one of ‘us’ and to redefine the citizen subject. In both examples, however, the repercussions of the law are profound, as they illustrate the ways in which courts participate in debates over subjectivity and belonging.

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