Professional Emotions in Court : A Sociological Perspective book cover
1st Edition

Professional Emotions in Court
A Sociological Perspective

ISBN 9780367821128
Published October 18, 2019 by Routledge
208 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Professional Emotions in Court examines the paramount role of emotions in the legal professions and in the functioning of the democratic judicial system. Based on extensive interview and observation data in Sweden, the authors highlight the silenced background emotions and the tacitly habituated emotion management in the daily work at courts and prosecution offices. Following participants ‘backstage’ – whether at the office or at lunch – in order to observe preparations for and reflections on the performance in court itself, this book sheds light on the emotionality of courtroom interactions, such as professional collaboration, negotiations, and challenges, with the analysis of micro-interactions being situated in the broader structural regime of the legal system – the emotive-cognitive judicial frame – throughout.

A demonstration of the false dichotomy between emotion and reason that lies behind the assumption of a judicial system that operates rationally and without emotion, Professional Emotions in Court reveals how this assumption shapes professionals’ perceptions and performance of their work, but hampers emotional reflexivity, and questions whether the judicial system might gain in legitimacy if the role of emotional processes were recognized and reflected upon.

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures


1. Why emotions in court?

2. Background emotions in legal professional life

3. Organisational Emotion Management

4. The dramaturgy of court emotions

5. Power and status in court

6. Objectivity work as situated emotion management

7. Concluding discussion



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Stina Bergman Blix is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Åsa Wettergren is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Work Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.


"Cogent arguments supported with fascinating data make Professional Emotions in Court a tour de force. Bergman Blix and Wettergren reveal not only that court processes are infused with emotions but show also how the actors involved – judges, prosecutors and lawyers – believe that their practices are impersonal if not rational. This is sociology at its best, changing the way we conceive institutions, knowledge and routine rituals." - Jack Barbalet, Australian Catholic University, Australia, and Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong.

"Professional Emotions in Court offers a lucid and important reconceptualization of the legal notion of objectivity. The authors place their extensive interview and observational data in a legal and sociological framework, illustrating the ways in which implicit rules and assumptions about emotion shape the behavior and the decisions of prosecutors and judges. This is a rigorous look at a fascinating subject, with implications for both common law and civil legal systems." - Susan A. Bandes, DePaul University College of Law, USA.

"[…] the book offers a substantial contribution to a growing field of studies concerning emotion and the law. With its rich data and the authors’ sociological eye for detail, the study reveals the importance of judges’ and prosecutors’ emotion management practices and will be a must-read for years to come." - Malin Åkerström, Symbolic Interaction.

"While the Swedish judge with their stone face may seem a million miles away from the American judge who sheds tears in court then hugs a defendant, much can be learned about emotions across a range of justice contexts by adopting the approach taken by Bergman Blix and Wettergren. Their analysis reveals the inner workings of background emotions for Swedish legal professionals. However, it raises somewhat more universal questions about the tensions between lay and professional emotions and frames, the relationship between background and foreground emotions, and the limits of the emotive-cognitive judicial frame. This book can and should generate a broader discussion about emotions in legal settings." - Meredith Rossner, Journal of Law and Society.