Why do people experience legal institutions as effective sites for political and social transformation? How do people translate political and ethical goals into modalities of law? In Europe many have responded to a widespread sense of political crisis by turning to legal remedies and judicial institutions. One of these institutions, the European Court of Human Rights, provides shared frameworks for combating people's sense of impasse or decline. People experience the Court as a successful rights institution because it shapes and generates shared semiotic forms and repertoires. Through these, lawyers, judges, and rights advocates construct and recognize their actions as efficacious. Yet the experience of efficacy is an unequally shared resource. For some, legal frameworks are the condition of possibility for ethical and professional engagement. But for others, engaging with the law produces frustration and exclusion. Moreover, engaging in judicialized politics shapes some harms as legally legible and actionable, while it shapes others as tragedies beyond reach. [law, politics, liberalism, judicialization of politics, justice, human rights, efficacy, metapragmatics, Europe].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-431
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Law, politics, and efficacy at the European Court of Human Rights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this