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The Bureaucratic Violence of Alternative Justice

Amanda J. Reinke

ABSTRACT

Alternative justice—conflict resolution outside formal law—seeks to alleviate pervasive social issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline. Alternative justice practitioners increasingly seek to transform the legal system and the violence it perpetuates from within by implementing programs and processes in collaboration with formal law and legal actors. However, this collaborative approach requires practitioners to create bureaucratic processes and procedures such as memoranda of understanding, complex filing systems, and data tracking. Multisited ethnographic research in the United States (2014-2017) reveals that there is little consensus among these practitioners as to whether this bureaucratization will benefit or harm their work. The bureaucracy of processing case work, implementing standardized procedures, extending training requirements, and cost barriers are viewed positively insofar as they gain legitimacy for the field. Is bureaucratization necessary to achieve legitimacy, or does it restrict practitioners’ ability to fulfill client needs and the principles of their justice paradigm?

Open access

Documents and the bureaucratisation of alternative dispute resolution in the United States

Amanda J. Reinke

Abstract

Documents are part of interactive sociocultural worlds in which ethnographers can analyse topics such as power relations, social struggle, violence and secrecy. While they emerge from bureaucratic administration, apparently mundane and stagnant documents represent dynamic processes of decision-making, knowledge production and exclusion. I consider ethnographic research on documents and their production as one that offers significant insights into bureaucratic violence and the tensions between formality and informality in alternative dispute resolution in Virginia and the San Francisco Bay Area. This article discusses working with documents that are simultaneously bound by law and exist extra-legally. While documents are used to gain economic support, strengthen relationships between non-profit and government bodies, and evidence ‘success’, the processes have difficulties. The data demonstrate that bureaucratisation has resulted in cumbersome processes and expensive requirements that mirror the exclusion and power asymmetries of formal law itself.

Open access

Applied Anthropology in Juridical Grey Spaces

Amanda J. Reinke

Abstract

Informal justice refers to those legal practices that are traditionally outside the purview of formal law and legal systems. Since the advent of widespread social critique in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, informal justice models have become increasingly popular and implemented in communities and within the legal system itself. The existence of informal justice mechanisms alongside and within formal justice systems in the US raises a number of questions for applied anthropologists interested in legal anthropology. In this article, I leverage four years of ethnographic fieldwork in the US to argue for the capacity of applied anthropologists to effectively work in grey juridical spaces that are beside and between the law, activism, and emerging bureaucratic regimes.

Free access

Introduction

Ethnographic Engagement with Bureaucratic Violence

Erin R. Eldridge and Amanda J. Reinke

Abstract

Bureaucracies are dynamic and interactive sociocultural worlds that drive knowledge production, power inequalities and subsequent social struggle, and violence. The authors featured in this special section mobilize their ethnographic data to examine bureaucracies as animated spaces where violence, whether physical, structural, or symbolic, manifests in everyday bureaucratic practices and relationships. The articles span geographic contexts (e.g., United States, Canada, Chile, Eritrea) and topics (e.g., migration, extractive economies, law and sociolegal change, and settler colonialism) but are bound together in their investigation of the violence of the administration of decisions, care, and control through bureaucratic means.

Open access

Legal aid amid bureaucracy

Amanda J. Reinke and Nicole Bevilacqua

Abstract

Disaster lawyers navigate bureaucratic impediments to insurance claims and settlement and federal recovery and relief, and they act as third-party facilitators for disaster-affected clients to help enable their survival efforts. The roles of such lawyers in navigating paperwork and bureaucratic processes on behalf of survivors, while assisting them in meeting basic daily needs, has become seen as being integral to recovery in these processes. We utilise findings from semi-structured interviews with disaster law practitioners working with disaster survivors in the south-eastern United States (SEUS) to examine the bureaucratic socio-legal life of disasters. We marshal bureaucratic violence literature to analyse disaster law practitioners’ perspectives of the socio-legal nature of disasters in the SEUS, demonstrating that the bureaucratic technologies of recovery are primary obstacles to expedient recovery and successful legal work with survivors.