“The Law has to be seen to be done”: Language, Ideology and Ritual in The Hague.

Candidate Number: 106393

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent international tribunal that prosecutes individuals for crimes against peace, war crimes, breaches of humanitarian laws, crimes against humanity and genocide. In 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugaslavia (ICTY) was formed and is a temporary tribunal to try individuals for crimes committed during the war in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. I visited both courts between the 2nd and 4th of April 2014 and collected data through observations and questions asked during the formal presentations that were given. In this essay I will discussing my observations from my visit and will focus upon the language used and the ritual shown, which reflects the message and ideology the ICC and ICTY wishes to promote.


After going through security and putting all your belongings in a locker you are shown the way to the public gallery. After walking through a non-descript staircase you enter into the silent public gallery through a set of double-doors. You collect a pair of headphones and take a seat; a guard is at the back of the room watching you as you settle down. The seats are in rows, and a blind is pulled down over the bulletproof screen to show that the court would soon continue. To me, it felt like waiting for curtain call at a theatrical performance. Once the session had started, you chose your language that you wish to hear the proceedings in. The court has live translations and often deals with multiple languages at a time. This makes responses between those active in the courtroom slow and there were often questions asked to redefine what was meant, especially when colloquial terms were used. A visitor is also given a copy of the ‘ICC Rules of Decorum’ and if these are broken the guards present will actively reprimand any individual. Following these rules meant I had to sit still, be silent, refrain from gesturing and previously given in all my possessions beforehand and I had to rise from my seat when the judges entered the room. There is no explanation to the public what is happening and you have no idea how long the proceeding will take and if you are allowed to leave.

final scan

A copy of the plan of the gallery given to visitors.


A copy of the rules given to all visitors when entering the public gallery.




It was not the experience I had expected. We were welcomed warmly when arriving at the ICC and told how important it was that visitors came to see the work they were doing. I wondered why it was so important? As a member of the public, what was my role? As I was not actively participating, but was told I was invaluable to the ICC’s process. Nigel Eltringham (2012) focuses on the ‘silent, validating public’ in his work on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He discusses how the court spectators are not incidental, but in fact they are integral, as the presence of the public is made explicit in courtroom proceedings. Despite the efforts of the court to encourage visitors, sessions are usually only watched by a hand few of people. In fact, the statistics gathered by Eltringham show on average, there were just six people present in the gallery in 2008. I felt particularly restrained as a viewer due to the rules handed to me, in this article Eltringham describes the public as ‘docile bodies’ (p.430) in the gallery. The way to create these docile bodies is to make the public believe that the courtroom is a privileged, respected space.


When entering the gallery, the public then embodies a ‘liminal status as a spectator’ (p.431). This liminality relates the theory developed by Arnold Van Gennep (1909). Van Gennep focused on liminality in terms of ritual and rites of passage. He noted that each rite of passage had three zones. The first, the rite of separation is often a break from usual societal life. The second is the liminal rite, which involves the creation of the ‘tabula rasa’, where previous ideas about life that are taken for granted are stripped away. Finally, there are the rites of incorporation back into daily life. It is the second stage that is particularly relevant when understanding the public gallery and those within it. A new set of rules are there to be followed and you are very much stripped of your identity and individual agency due to this. Therefore the gallery could easily be seen as a liminal zone. Within this zone, I became a part of certain rituals of the common law system, such as rising for the judges. This obviously reflects their status in the courtroom and reinforces my place as an anonymous viewer. Eltringham uses Bell (1992) to show that ‘ritualisation, as a strategy of differentiation is rooted in a distinctive interplay of a socialised body and the environment it structures’ (p. 432). It was obvious that the environment of the public gallery affected the agency of bodies and forced us to act in a particular way that suited the courtroom, which had ‘privileged differentiation’ (Eltringham, 2012: 432).


I began to wonder if I was witnessing justice? The way the active participants of the courtroom interacted with each other and the space with ritualised and practiced, like a performance. Of course every performance should have an audience, and I began to think of myself as exactly that. We had the privilege of having a discussion with a barrister David Hooper QC who is counsel for William Ruto who is involved in the case in the Republic of Kenya. When I posed the concept to him that nothing can be universally applied to every human, he confidently stated that every human has a concept and a need for justice and this is what was occurring in the ICC. According to various articles, this sense of justice does not reach the victims, especially when they are trying to rebuild their lives. Stover (2005) writes that the witnesses used in the trial at the ICTY felt abandoned and that there was a lack of regard for their well-being. He discovered that there was a large gap between the expectations and experiences of the witnesses regarding the legal justice system. In his conclusion he noted that testifying a war criminal is not the same thing as achieving justice and social healing.


I believe that during the presentations given at the ICC, Stover’s difference between justice and a successful trial was not acknowledged. Discussion of the victims and their rights was brought up in a formal Q&A session with the Officer of the Prosecutor at the ICC. Despite not describing any specific outreach programmes the ICC were involved in, there was the expectation that prosecuting could cause a ‘calming effect’ on those areas. He stated that we were all a part of an international community. It was important that the victims have the sentiment that ‘someone, somewhere is with them’. The ICC is restoring the order and ‘giving hope to the victims that they are not alone”. The officer of the prosecutor then stated that he ‘thinks people are believing that’. I observed that the language used during this presentation was almost spiritual. During the presentation, phrases like the court is an ‘answer to the pleas of victims’ and ‘for the rights of the victims’ were said. This made me think that the court was acting as a higher power and giving those who believe hope. The final statement given in the presentations was that they were pleased to see us, to get us on board and that we must ‘spread the message to others’. I was unsure exactly what this message was; it was certainly something deeper than just the legal requirements of the court.


Due to the nature of my fieldwork project, which was mainly observation, I found that I asked many questions which my informants alone could not answer. As I was treated like a visitor in the courts, I used the fieldwork method of participant observation (Malinowski, 1922). This method of course requires long term fieldwork, of which I did not have the luxury to undertake. If I had however, I feel as if some of the questions that arose such as ‘what is my role here in the public gallery?’ may have been answered. Dewalt and Dewalt (2002) discuss how anthropologists can train themselves to be more acute, sensitive observers and I feel I developed that skill during this fieldwork.


To conclude, the ICC is clear in its presentations of its mission and aim. However, there was a distinct gap of knowledge between what they do in The Hague and how this affects the victims directly. Research has shown that the victims have felt severely let down by the system of international law in The Hague. The international courts also put a lot of effort into the encouragement of visitors that makes for an interesting analysis. It is clear there is a strong belief in a universal sense of justice and a wide international community, which seeks to support one another. It is said, that the focus is on the victims of the crimes committed. However, it is seen that the focus is on how the international community understands the ICC and that the triumphs of their legal system are widely spoken about and celebrated.



Word Count:1553




Bell, C. 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual practice. New York: Oxford University Press.


Dewalt, K.M. & Dewalt, B.R. 2002. Participant Observation: A Guide for Fieldworkers. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. (Chapter 4: Doing Participant Observation: Becoming an Observer)


Eltringham, N. (2009) ‘We are not a Truth Commission’: Fragmented Narratives and the Historical Record at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’, Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 11, No. 1.


Eltringham, N. (2012) Spectators to the Spectacle of Law: The Formation of a `Validating Public’ at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology.


Gennep, A. (1909). Les Rites de passage. Étude systématique des rites. 1st ed. Paris.


Malinowski, B. (1922). Argonauts of the western Pacific. 1st ed. London: G. Routledge & Sons.


Selimovic, J. M. (2010) ‘Perpetrators and victims: Local responses to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’, Focaal, Vol. 57.


Stover, E. (2005) The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in The Hague. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).


Wilson, R. (2011) Writing History in International Criminal Trials. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




Am I an Explorer or a Consumer? An observation of Spatial and Disciplinary Tactics at Kew Gardens.

Candidate Number: 106393

In 2013, Kew Gardens attracted over 1.3 million visitors (ALVA, 2014). However Kew originally started as a royal hobby (Brockway, 1979). In 1841, Kew was made into a state institution and was to be the nerve centre for all the British Colonial Botanical stations. In the 19th century, it also began its emphasis on economic and colonial botany as it had available sites in all climates across the globe. Today, Kew is advertised as ‘the world’s most famous botanical garden’ (Kew.org, 2014) and on my visit, I was interested in how the members of the public coming to Kew behave and interact with the area and how this behaviour is influenced by Kew itself. I visited Kew on March 14th and a clear limit of my fieldwork was that I was only there for a day. My main method of gathering information was my own observation and taking photographs.


Joy Hendry (1997a) discusses how ‘gardens all over the world represent the efforts of human beings to create cultural versions of their natural surroundings’ (p.83) and she pays particular focus to Japanese gardens. Natural disasters are common in Japan so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people respect nature and it’s forces (Hendry, 1997b). In Japanese culture, there is not a clear distinction between nature and society but there is an idea of raw nature, which is feared. And then ‘cooked’ or ‘tamed’ nature, which is cultivated like a garden. Therefore the garden is seen as somewhere in between the safety of a home and the dangers of the natural world.

A garden in the middle of the city. Photo by Alice Paines.

A garden in the middle of the city. Photo by Alice Paines.


In Palissons’ Environmental Relations. Orientalism, Paternalism and Communalism (1996) he looks at the fundamental differences between nature and society and the dualism of the ecological and social worlds that applies more the views held in the UK. These worlds are described as dialectically linked spheres that ‘complement and supplements the other in many ways’ (Hollingshead, 1940). I wondered, when entering the Kew gates, whether people changed their behaviour as they were suddenly entering an ecological world and leaving their daily social one behind.


One of the first key themes I found when wandering around the site, was that the idea of trust continuously became apparent. One obvious example of this would be that there were small fences around areas that you could not walk, for example where new grass seeds had been planted. These fences were so small they could not physically stop you, however it was obvious that there was a command that had to be obeyed. There were no obvious methods of surveillance around and no clear punishment if you stood in the area, so why did Kew make the assumption that the public would obey this rule? What does this say about Kew’s expectation of the visitors?

Paths and boundaries. Photo by Alice Paines.

Paths and boundaries. Photo by Alice Paines.

Testing the Boundaries. Photo by Alice Paines.

Testing the Boundaries. Photo by Alice Paines.


An important theorist that focused on both space and discipline was Michel Foucault. He discussed that if the concept of punishment appeared in a person’s mind before they commit the crime, then that could be powerful enough to abstain one from doing so (Foucault, 1977). He discusses various methods in which one could install this thought process into an individual, including the method used by Bentham’s Panopitcon. For the inmates of this prison, ‘visibility was a trap’ (p.200). Foucault describes the inmate and his life as; ‘he is seen, but he does not see; he is the object information, never a subject in communication’. Although this sounds extreme, the constant visibility of the prison meant it was successful in its aim. Foucault states that ‘the major effect of the panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power’ (p.201). Discipline and Punish says that this way of behaving is actually the reality of the everyday man and that is it just in criminals that it has to be re-discussed.


I began to think about Foucault and his ideas of docile bodies whilst wandering around Kew, I began to realise that I could break many ‘unsaid’ rules like the fence if I wished. However, being a ‘normal citizen’ I did think of the consequences and realised I did not actually know what these would be. As Kew was it’s own space with its own set of rules, I did not know exactly what those rules would be or whether there would be a set of consequences. Also, there wasn’t any sign of surveillance technology, so I could not be sure whether or not I was being watched. This reflects exactly onto how the inmates in the Panopticon felt, as they could never be sure if they were being watched.

Docile Body? Photo by Alice Paines.

Docile Body? Photo by Alice Paines.


Foucault suggests that discipline may sometimes require an ‘enclosure’; as discipline is ultimately about the distribution of people in a space. Rabinow (2003) in Ordonnance, Discipline, Regulation: Some reflections on Urbanism, describes the example of a planned city in France called Richelieu, during the classical age. Richlieu was a ‘self- enclosed space’ (p.358) so could be monitored easily. It was also organised in a particular way. The town was expected to house some several thousand residences and they would live in accordance to their class. The wealthiest of inhabitants would live in the centre of the site, on the largest roads, and the poorest would live in the peripheries of the area. This not only reinforced the status of those living there, but also, on a practical level, assured that there was a strong circulation of goods and wealth around the site.


Applying this example as an analogy to Kew is quite simple. They have their most prized exhibitions within the centre of the area, which is defined by their largest pathways. And then any secondary exhibits reside on the outside of the site. This then means there is not always a concentrated area of people and that the most important attractions are not ignored or missed.

One of Kew's prized attractions. The Japanese Pagoda. Photo by Alice Paines.

One of Kew’s prized attractions. The Japanese Pagoda. Photo by Alice Paines.


However, it was not just the large, concrete pathways that were of interest in my visit to Kew. Many pathways were grass, and defined by large lines of trees growing either side. These often lead to the main exhibits. At first, I was unsure whether or not we were allowed to walk on the grass. A group of us paused before stepping onto the beautifully mown lawn and looked around for confirmation from other visitors. As well as the two types of large pathways, there were often tiny walkways incorporated into flowerbeds. It made you feel as if you were exploring and perhaps shouldn’t be walking there, but the small pebble pathways gave you the confidence to stroll through. I found this concept of exploring interesting, as the visitor was made to feel as if they were discovering an area for the first time, but of course this was created by Kew. As we were out of the peak season, we were often alone in vast areas and this added to the effect of being a rambler.


An Explorer. Photo by Alice Paines.

An Explorer. Photo by Alice Paines.

Kew was very clever at fulfilling any desires the consumer may need. David Harvey (2006) discusses how social activity in an area is controlled by commercial activity and therefore the citizen is transformed into a spectator and a consumer. I mustn’t forget that apart from Kew being a botanical garden, it must make a profit to keep running. The way these walkways were designed was not only very clever in a practical sense, but allowed for people to wander without the worry of missing an exhibit. One of the first things given to each visitor along with their ticket is a map. This is usual for any tourist destination but a map allows a visitor to feel control and gives them the ability to plan. There is little chance of being lost without a map and in a large site like Kew, I felt that this was a safety net.


In The Anthropology of Space and Place (2003), spatial tactics are described as ‘the use of space as a strategy and/or technique of power and social control, but also as a way of obscuring these relationships” (p.350). I thoroughly believe this quote says exactly what Kew has achieved. As a visitor I never felt as if I were being controlled, in fact I felt like I had control of exploring myself. But of course, I took only the pathways set, small or large, which were designed with a purpose.


To conclude, Paul Rabinow states that; “Discipline involved an ongoing control, a response to a particular set of needs, not a timeless or utopian representation” (2003, p.358). I feel like Kew gardens attends of particular needs of its customers and understands it’s demographic to create positive experiences for those that visit. To continue to be successful, it must also adjust these tactics when necessary and as an anthropologist, it would interesting to visit during it’s busiest time of year, to see if Kew still attends to the desire to become an explorer and the desire to go ‘off the beaten track’ for a while, without breaking any rules.


Word Count: 1499




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Brockway, Lucile H. 1979. Science and Colonial Expansion: the role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. American Ethnologist. 6(3):449-465.


Cresswell, Tim. 2004. Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.


Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and punish. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books.


Harvey, David. 2003. The Right to the City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(4):939–941.


Harvey, David. 2006. The political economy of public space. In Setha M Low & Neil Smith (eds.). The politics of public space. New York: Routledge.


Hendry, Joy. 1997a. Nature Tamed: Gardens as a Microcosm of Japan’s View of the World. In Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives. Pamela Asquith & Arne Kalland (eds.). London: Curzon Press.


Hendry, Joy. 1997b. Who is Representing Whom? Gardens, Theme-Parks and the Anthropologist in Japan. In After Writing Culture: Epistemology and Praxis in Contemporary Anthropology. Allison James, Jennifer Hockey and Paul Dawson (eds.). London: Routledge.


Hollingshead, A.B. 1940. Human Ecology and Human Society. Ecological Monographs. 10, 3: 354–66.


Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. 2014. Visit Kew Gardens. [online]. Available at: http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens. [Accessed 1st May, 2014].


Pálsson, Gísli, 1996. Human-environmental relations: orientalism, paternalism and communalism. In Nature and Society: Anthropological Perspectives, P. Descola & G. Pálsson (eds). London: Routledge.


Rabinow, P. 2003. Ordonnance, Discipline, Regulation: Some reflections on Urbansim. In The Anthropology of Space and Place; Locating Culture. Low, S.M and Lawrence- Zuniga. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Oxford.