Upcoming Events

TAPSA: Images of Belonging: Lawyers in the People’s Court

February 9, 2023, 5pm

Foster Hall 103

Krithika Ashok, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology  

The Supreme Court of India, since the 1980s, when it first articulated its “public interest litigation” jurisdiction, has often been flatteringly described as a “people’s court.” This reputation, however, has come into question in recent years, with legal scholars beginning to ask whether or not, the court is indeed a “people’s court,” and who might the people that the court apparently represents be. My approach instead, in this paper, has been to take this reputation, or mythology, with all the contradictions, seriously; and examine how this myth appears in the narratives of lawyers about themselves. In this version of the paper, I focus specifically on “first-generation lawyers,” i.e., those without family in the profession, and find that the court is invoked in their narratives as a figure that aids their success, even while it remains a starkly unequal playing field for them. I suggest that their descriptions of the court, as the spatial setting of their work, curiously mirrors perceptions of the Supreme Court as a legal institution, offering further insights then into the ways in which the symbolic significance of the court is reproduced.