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Chapter 6 focuses on the production of justice on the ground in northern Uganda. By analysing the normative pluralism that exists in northern Uganda, the chapter shows that the legitimacy of the ICC depends on how people assess the legitimacy of international criminal law relative to all other normative systems that are available and could be called upon to address the crimes committed during the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Uganda People’s Defence Force. From this perspective the chapter shows that actors navigate this normative pluralism by producing, mobilizing, and transforming sentiments. By investigating the narratives through which people substantiate their justice assessments in terms of emotions, it is possible to better understand the local justice dynamics on the ground. (~11,600 words)
The second chapter shows how atmospheres are created in the courtroom in the process of enacting international criminal law. On the example of the Dominic Ongwen case, the ICC courtroom is conceptualized as an affective arrangement in which bodies ‒ both human and non-human ‒ are arranged while affecting and being affected by one another. This affect theory perspective opens up new ways of thinking about the courtroom and how it conveys and creates emotions.
The third chapter shifts the ethnographic focus away from the courtroom in The Hague to rural northern Uganda. Through an ethnographic investigation of the ICC’s outreach work and the politics of memory in the region of Dominic Ongwen’s crimes, the chapter illustrates how all actors on the ground, including representatives of the ICC, engage in curating, manipulating, and shaping atmospheres. The chapter revisits current scholarship that aims to explain the limits and failures of transitional justice projects in Africa. Instead of focusing on perceived large-scale differences in cultural conceptions of law and justice, this chapter argues for a focus on concrete affective occurrences on the ground.
Objectivity is generally thought of as antithetical to emotion. Chapter 5 makes an argument to the contrary: that objectivity is itself a sentiment. Mobilizing the idea of the courtroom as an affective arrangement, producing objectivity is described as the practice of arranging objects in the courtroom in order to create specific affective dynamics. All actors in the courtroom compete with one another to confer the status of object or subject onto certain human or nonhuman bodies in the courtroom ‒ either to make their own points or to sabotage the arrangement of bodies as posited by their competitors. This relational perspective on objectivity casts a new light on knowledge production in the courtroom. (~7,800 words)
Understanding affect and emotion as constitutive of the law allows us to rethink popular conceptions of modernity. The Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in particular ‒ the center of the Dominic Ongwen case ‒ has been portrayed as an example of the emotional, pre-modern other plaguing Africa in a state of unfinished modernity. When we begin to theorize modernity itself as something that is felt and that feels in specific ways, we can no longer maintain the idea of modernity as freed from or free of emotion. This has consequences for thinking about the relationship between the Global North and the Global South. Going beyond ascribing rationality to non-European societies in order to counter colonial and racist undertones in modernity theory, which was a key project for anthropologists in the past (particularly in legal anthropology), this chapter makes the plea to rethink the idea that rationality itself is a mode of conceiving of the world in a non-emotional way. Rekindling Bruno Latour’s famous statement that "we have never been modern," this chapter argues that we have also never been rational. (~3,000 words)
On February 4, 2021, as I was preparing this book for publication, the judges of the ICC found Dominic Ongwen guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.1 Two weeks earlier, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni had won the general election and, despite allegations of election fraud and violent suppression of the political opposition, entered his sixth term as president of Uganda.2 Ongwen’s conviction, which carries a prison sentence of twenty-five years,3 most likely marks the end of the ICC’s criminal prosecution in northern Uganda. Of the other four commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army against whom warrants are outstanding, only Joseph Kony is rumored to still be alive. But as of now, it does not appear likely that he will ever be captured and tried in The Hague. Cases against other actors in the conflict, particularly from the side of the government, are not on the horizon.
The first chapter introduces the book’s guiding question: What is the role of affect and emotion in international criminal law and transitional justice? Instead of accepting at face value the commonly held assumption that the law systematically neutralizes affective dynamics, I argue that the law purposefully creates, mobilizes, shapes, and transforms affective dynamics by curating atmospheres and producing sentiments. This chapter introduces the analytical and conceptual framework, defines the main terms ‒ affect, emotion, atmosphere, and sentiment ‒ and opens up the ethnographic focus on the case TheProsecutor v. Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court.
Chapter 7 combines the key insights from the preceding chapters in an investigation of the prevailing debate on the ICC in Africa. By analysing ethnographic encounters in The Hague, northern Uganda, and other places where criticisms and defences of the ICC’s Africa policies emerge, the chapter shows that the creation of atmospheres and sentiments is key to the political debate on the rule-of-law movement in Africa. Both critics and proponents of the ICC depend on these atmospheres and sentiments to make their points. Far from being merely another register of political discourse among others, the deployment of affect and emotion is a key component of any normative statement about justice. (~9,300 words)
Chapter 4 begins the third part of the book by investigating the practice of producing plausibility in the courtroom and beyond. By rethinking framing in terms of affect, this chapter analyses how actors in the Dominic Ongwen case ‒ both professional lawyers in the ICC courtroom and activists on the ground in northern Uganda ‒ try to create affective arrangements in order to convince others of the truth of their narratives of the past. They achieve this not only through discursive means such as courtroom rhetoric, but also by creating specific atmospheres outside the courtroom, for example, by curating memorial spaces in northern Uganda in order to influence the ICC’s decision. The chapter hence contributes to the wide-ranging discussion on how those enacting the law produce ‘truth’ by manipulating the role of sentiment. (~8,500 words)