Francis Cody, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto
Legal reporting at the Madras High Court serves as a site to better understand how public images of the law bear on questions of caste, gender, and political community. Beginning with a famous and widely quoted judgement in favor of the novelist Perumal Murugan’s right to free expression, this talk then follows a habeas corpus case resulting from illicit love that became major media event, and then ends with career of the High Court Justice, C.S. Karnan, who was arrested for “scandalizing” the court after accusing fellow Justices of casteist discrimination. The analysis demonstrates how public affect and perceived opinion on the question of community loop back into the texts of High Court judgements. When authority is routed through the mediation of normative news-consuming publics and not only in legal procedure, judicial power is vulnerable because it demands from the media of publicity a forum for displaying its power that can be withheld.