Anna Offit, Anthropology

"When Certainty Enters the Story: Managing Narrative Logic in the Prosecution of Parents"

Wed, 03/25/2015
438 Robertson Hall
Graduate Students

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract:  "This seminar will examine a federal judge’s effort to manage the narrative challenge posed by trying a case that was previously litigated in family court. Drawing on ethnographic research and transcript analysis, I show how the judge orients her rulings around a concern that jurors will use the outcome of past proceedings to interpret the evidence before them. In the judge’s view, as I will demonstrate, the retrospective reasoning that characterizes narrative logic is incompatible with her sense of justice. In the process, however, I argue that the judge’s efforts to create the narrative conditions of a fair trial rely on her own intuitions derived from past cases. This ironic tension—the judge who draws on the certainty of her experience to regulate the uncertainty of the jury— is the subject of this paper-in-progress." 

Anna Offit is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. She received an MPhil in Social Anthropological Analysis from the University of Cambridge in 2009, and a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2012 after which she was admitted to the New York and New Jersey Bar. As a law student, she was Editor-in-Chief of the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, and served as a law clerk for the Department of Justice’s Office for Civil Rights. Anna’s dissertation will examine jury selection in the United States.