CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

This study analyses the conflicts of interpretation inherent in the identification of a situation as racist and discriminatory, in the context of an institutional site of reception and treatment of individual complaints. Taking this context as the starting point of our analysis has the advantage of showing several dimensions of the object “discrimination”.
The discriminatory experiences reported in these places allow the examination of the different forms that discrimination can take in everyday life. These experiences’ repeated and polymorphic character illustrates the situational and structural dimensions of racism.
Based on the discourse of plaintiffs, defendants, and the agents in charge of receiving complaints, the study analyses the discursive strategies developed by the actors in this context of interaction. The plaintiffs’ aim is to be recognized as discriminated against. That of defendants is to invalidate the indictment. For counsellors, it is to hear and process the complaint. This context of interaction is a scene where strategies of objectivation, refutation, and reparation of discriminations takes place. These strategies are examined by taking into account their factual, but also their compassional and moral dimensions. The last section of the paper examines the limits of the judicial treatment of issues of discrimination and the conflicts of interpretation to which such treatment gives rise.


  • racism
  • discrimination
  • individual complaints
  • conflicts of interpretation
  • discursive strategies
Mireille Eberhard
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