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Ethics in rehearsal

Keenan, Bernard and Pottage, Alain (2017) Ethics in rehearsal. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 23 (S1). pp. 153-165. ISSN 1359-0987

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-9655.12600


In this essay we explore a rather spare kind of meeting: a conversation between three people with minimal facilitating equipment. The stakes are high because these are meetings in which the barrister in an asylum or immigration case first meets with a client who is at risk of deportation. We focus on two dimensions of these encounters. First, we identify the aesthetic that configures and animates most asylum cases: the aesthetic of inconsistency. The meetings we observed were all about inconsistency; about working out how to respond to actual and anticipated challenges to the coherence of a refugee or migrant’s personal narrative. The logic of inconsistency is so persistent and so corrosive that the exercise of anticipation – ‘rehearsal’ – is essentially open-ended. This leads to the second dimension of our meetings. Barristers who work in this area of law develop a particular style or ethos, which allows them to accompany vulnerable clients through the rehearsal and also to make sense of their own involvement in the machinery of deportation. In these two aspects we find the basic choreographic principles of our meetings: the articulations which shape their material and affective ecology, and which inform the barrister’s interpretation and performance of his or her professional role.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Royal Anthropological Institute
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2017 15:14
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 03:04

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