China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Frames and Schemas in Judging: Divorce Law Practice in Trial Courts in Reform China

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 5, Exhibit Level

Court judges are often portrayed as street-level bureaucrats, rational careerists, and, in authoritarian contexts, political tools of repressive regimes. This study takes a different approach by focusing on the spoken and written language of judges and litigants in China's divorce courts. Empirically, I use both ethnographic observations and published court decisions from China's grassroots courts, the People's Tribunals, to assess similarities and differences between the language judges adopt in their courtroom interactions and the language they adopt in their written rulings. Theoretically, I use the concept of "frame"--namely, schemas of interpretation through which institutions and individuals make sense of lived experiences, and, in turn, form sensible line of action--to explain contradictions between how judges talk about divorce with litigants in the courtroom and how they write about divorce in their published decisions. I show how some frames invoked by litigants resonate with judges while others fall on deaf ears. I find that class and gender--the frames that informed and inspired divorce law practice in the Mao era--nowadays carry little currency among Chinese judges. Moneyed solutions and interpersonal violence have emerged as the key organizing frames whereby individuals, the court system, and the state come to terms with increasingly volatile marriages in the reform era. This study concludes with a discussion of the theoretical implications of applying cultural concepts, such as frames, schemas, and fields, in the studies of courts in China and beyond.

Ke Li

City University of New York, John Jay College, New York

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Ke Li


Assets

3 - Frames and Schemas in Judging: Divorce Law Practice in Trial Courts in Reform China



Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for Frames and Schemas in Judging: Divorce Law Practice in Trial Courts in Reform China