Law & Emotion: Knowledge, Re-Presentation & Performance

Wednesday 26th September 2018 2.30 – 4.15 pm

Venue: CW 507B, Cathedral Wing, 199 Cathedral Street

Strathclyde University

Book Your Place: 


Prof Susan Bandes, Distinguished Centennial Professor, De Paul Law School, USA: Emotion, Logic, and Courtroom Credibility

Courtroom credibility if often portrayed as a simple binary choice: either the witness is telling the truth or not. This turns out to be a simplistic, inaccurate and often dangerous assumption. In fact, credibility is not a static attribute, but a communication process, involving both the fact-finder and the witness. It is a process that draws on implicit expectations (those of the fact-finder and the witness) about how one “ought” to feel and act in certain circumstances. These implicit expectations about the display of emotion pervade every type of credibility determination. How does a “real” rape victim act? How credible are police officers compared to police brutality complainants? What does a remorseful person look like? Is an angry male juror more or less credible than a calm one? What about an angry female juror? These implicit assumptions are largely unexamined, yet they have powerful consequences for the criminal justice system.

Dr Kate Rossmanith, Macquarie University, Australia: Remorse, Narrative, and the Fragmented Self

What does it mean to demonstrate remorse? How can we know if a person is truly sorry for what they have done? Drawing on an ethnographic study of remorse enactment and assessment in Australia (including interviews with judges, lawyers, forensic physicians, parole authorities, victims and offenders), this paper considers people’s experiences of, and expectations around, the outward display of emotion and the hidden interiority of experience. It also considers the ways in which offenders are impelled to self-narrate. In the justice system, offenders are expected to enact a rational, conscious, stable self; a self who reflects on his actions and who then changes his ways. What is the relationship between remorse, social performance, and storytelling?

Prof Susan Bandes is a world-leading and influential scholar. One of the 20 most cited in criminal law and procedure, she is in great demand as a speaker to academic, policy, judicial, practitioner and public audiences alike. She is a pioneer in the emerging study of the role of emotion in law. Her book The Passions of Law is widely regarded as a landmark in the field.

Dr Kate Rossmanith is an author, essayist, and academic. Her essays about the people who work, and find themselves caught up, in the criminal justice system have been used to teach the community about sentencing and parole processes, and have informed the working practices of judges and parole authorities. Her book, Small Wrongs, a work of hybrid nonfiction about remorse in the justice system and in our everyday personal lives, is the subject of international acclaim.