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This article is based on a large scale collective ethnographic study of disputes relating to marital dissolution in the Family Chambers of the Superior Courts (Chambres de la famille des Tribunaux de Grande instance) in France. Legal professionals (judges, lawyers, and court clerks) often have a cultural perspective on family justice. By using the concept of racialization, we address these processes of cultural differentiation of family justice publics and, in particular, its consequences on the treatment of disputants from ethno‑racial minorities. Because the caseload is significant, ordinary ethno‑racial stereotypes are an easy way of categorizing complex files, in a binary and evolutionist way: the “traditional” and “patriarchal” cultures of the minorities on one hand vs. the “modern” and “emancipatory” culture of the majority on the other. Ethno‑racial categories used explicitly or implicitly by legal professionals exacerbate gender and class stereotypes, which are more broadly present in their understanding of family legal disputes.


  • Family law
  • family courts
  • racialization
  • marital dissolutions
  • intersectionality
Céline Bessière
Émilie Biland
Abigail Bourguignon
Sibylle Gollac
Muriel Mille
Hélène Steinmetz
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