Courts, culture, and complicity: How anthropological knowledge sustains state imaginations of indigeneity

Singh, Aishwarya and Ramkumar, Meenakshi (2024) Courts, culture, and complicity: How anthropological knowledge sustains state imaginations of indigeneity. Jindal Global Law Review. ISSN 2364-4869 | 0975-2498 (In Press)

[thumbnail of s41020-023-00215-x.pdf] Text
s41020-023-00215-x.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (704kB) | Request a copy


This review essay explores the themes that emerge from contributions published in the Special Section on Cultural Expertise in the American Anthropologist. The contributions provide relevant insights into the key debates that surround the participation of cultural experts, especially anthropologists, in courtrooms, and the use of anthropology in courts to adjudicate claims. In this review essay, we assess how anthropological knowledge impacts claims made by Indigenous people, building on the experiences of the contributors to the Special Section. The contributors highlight how anthropological knowledge can support Indigenous claims even though it also reinforces culturally essentialist tropes about the Indigenous population. This is because it is the judicial system that sets the terms of how anthropological knowledge is to be incorporated in a courtroom. We provide a conceptual vocabulary to categorise this form of complicity between anthropological knowledge and state legal order, calling it claim-enhancing complicity. We also discuss how the Special Section in American Anthropologist does not capture another form of complicity—which we classify as claim-dismissing complicity. We find examples of claim-dismissing complicity in the Indian context, in two areas—first, in the denial of the Indigenous status of tribal communities, where anthropological knowledge reinforces the Indian state’s position in the international arena, and second, in the use of anthropological knowledge to set a heavy burden on tribal candidates of India’s affirmative action programmes to prove the authenticity of their tribal identity

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Anthropology | Cultural evidence | Cultural expertise | Indigenous | Tribes
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Social Sciences (General)
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Subhajit Bhattacharjee
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2024 06:41
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2024 06:41
Official URL:


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item
View Item