Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 July 2016
This paper contributes to the debate on the role of anthropological expertise in the legal sphere by broadening the analytical field of vision. Rather than focusing on the anthropologist, his or her positionality, the epistemic status of anthropological knowledge or the ensuing ethical questions – as the other contributions to this themed section do – we turn the question around. Based on empirical data from a survey conducted among European judges on judiciary practice and sociocultural diversity, our focus here is on the question of how judges perceive, assess and accommodate sociocultural diversity in their daily decision-making. We furthermore investigate the conditions under which external expertise is called upon in specific legal settings and situations. We develop a conceptual argument for rethinking the role of anthropological knowledge and research in legal practice and argue for the need to pursue new forms of collaborative ethnography with judges that go beyond participant observation of their courtroom interactions. Working together with the judges who give decisions on cases, we claim, can provide scope for both critical reflection and applied problem-solving.