My Research

After nine wonderful years as assistent professor in socio-legal studies at Utrecht University, I went back to Erasmus University Rotterdam, but now as associate professor in socio-legal studies. I work again with colleagues like Roel Pieterman, Ellen Hey, Sanne Taekema and Wibren van der Burg, and very much like that!

I intend to pick up new research themes and revitalise some older ones. For example, with all the fuzz of Dutch-Turkish citizens and political en legal developments in Turkey, it is again interesting to analyse closely what happens with minorities in Turkey and the Netherlands, among which the alevis. Also, the issue of ‘culture in court’ keeps returning on my desk. I was asked to write an opinion on a Dutch case in which a scribe (griffier) was rejected for a position at the court of Rotterdam, because she wanted to keep her headscarf on. Since this is against clothing regulations and the underlying idea of separation of state and religion, the neutrality of the judiciary etcetera, she did not get the job. The opinion grew into an empirical research, on which I will publish soon.

New topics include ‘citizen involvement in law’, ‘querulants and their functions’.

In the mean time, I have published on Dutch Legal Culture – 2016, how legal and youth care professionals deal with child protection issues while religious and ethno-cultural values play a background role, and the use of visuals in teaching socio-legal courses (Visuals for a critical legal profession – 2016).

Publications in 2015 were amongst others on the ‘discovery’ of human rights in The Netherlands. I interviewed several of the first lawyers who were involved in the first cases against The Netherlands at the European Court of Human Rights. The publication is about the first case, called ‘Engel’ (on article 6 ECHR), and how it was constructed. See Rossum – The-roots-of-Dutch-strategic-human-rights-litigation 2015 Rsoc. Another publication (in Dutch) is on family law and how the Dutch state disciplines ex-families in living a harmonious life.

My first 2014 publication has a history of a meeting in the summer of 2011 with two American researchers Eric Larson and Patrick Schmidt, who visited the Netherlands to do research into the Dutch reaction towards being “just another country regularly rebuked by the European Court of Human Rights”. We worked together, presented a paper at the Law and Society Association Annual Conference in june 2012, and then reworked and updated that paper to publish it. The Utrecht Law Review had it peer reviewed and accepted for publication.

Our (Sanne Taekema and me) special issue on legal pluralism with the Erasmus Law Review, was published in February 2014. A recently published issue on law in the everyday lives of transnational families can be found in the Onati Socio-Legal Series.

My latest publication on multiculturalism and the law in Dutch is on transnational families and law and how legal professionals may enhance the legitimacy of the legal order in their interactions and communications. The article is published in the UCERF publication range ‘Actuele ontwikkelingen in het familierecht, 2013. An English version and update, including a comparison with the situation in Norway (co-author Katja Jansen Frederiksen), was published in 2014 as a book chapter in ‘Juridification and Social Citizenship in the Welfare State’.

In 2012 I worked with a team of other researchers on an empirical research into the recusal (‘wraking’) procedure in the Netherlands. We interviewed lawyers and their clients on their experiences with recusal, we observed court proceedings, and had discussion sessions with lawyers and judges. The research was funded by the Council for the Judiciary. The report is called ‘Wraking bottom up‘ and was published in December 2012. See the Files page for the report or the website of the Raad voor de rechtspraak. In spring 2013  I published (with Jet Tigchelaar) an empirically grounded commentary on proposals to amend the law based on a comparative law approach. Most proposals cannot stand the test of ‘will it work in legal practice?’. See the file Rossum en Tigchelaar – Een empirisch gefundeerde bespreking van mogelijke wijzigingen van de wrakingsprocedure NJB 22 2013 Rsoc. Another publication with a special focus on what civil law judges can learn from recusal cases was published end of December 2013 in the NJFeitenrechtspraak. See Rossum Boogaard Bruijne Daskapan Diepeveen Maes – Wrakingszaken als leermiddel – NJF 2013 Rsoc.

The recusal report had a practical follow up: the courts of appeal in Amsterdam and The Hague decided to start a pilot in which they decide on each others’ recusal requests, the so called ‘externe wrakingskamer’. The pilot will last until 2016. I do the evaluative research; after all, if you do a pilot you also want to know what difference it makes.

In November 2011 me and Titia Loenen organized a seminar on ‘Framing multicultural issues in terms of human rights’, which questioned and problematized the unreflected use of human rights law in fighting unwanted cultural values. We had ten speakers. Four of them reworked their paper into a full fledged article. Their four articles together with my introduction were be published in nr 4 of the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights of this year. My Introduction can be found on the Files page.

A very nice ‘extra’ publication is a reworked paper written by two students who did my course in Comparative Legal Cultures, Barbara Muszynska end Petra Nováková. The article ‘Fighting corruption in Polish and Czech legal cultures‘ is published in the Comparative Law Review.

Most of my research is on the interplay between immigrant legal cultures and Dutch legal culture. An overview article in Dutch is called ‘Wat is de betekenis van rechtspraak in de multiculturele samenleving?’ (zie de Files pagina). A more general article on the relevance of empirical research and ‘how judges find the solution in legal cases’, is ‘Vier reflecties op empirisch onderzoek naar rechterlijke oordeelsvorming’ (published in NJB 2010 nr 38). Other articles are on Legal Anthropology in the Low Countries, Alevi Courts, legal pluralism in the field of family law among Moroccans in the Netherlands, and international child abduction (some in Dutch, see the Files page).

The coming years I will focus more on how the legal profession deals with cultural values in family law, on developments among lawyers, judges and public prosecutors pertaining to cultural diversity conflicts in multicultural society. I will keep track of how legal professionals increase their knowledge on law in multicultural society and how they try to improve their expertise and performance. I hope to trace changes and transformations in their ‘common sense knowledge’ of what is regarded as appropriate behaviour related to multicultural conflicts in law. I will have a main focus on issues related to family law.

I focus on the legal profession in the Netherlands. I am however member of a network of like-minded scholars in different European countries, and hope to contribute to comparative research in the coming years.
Substantively my research will cover cultural diversity conflicts in the area of family law and the increasing tendency to frame multicultural family problems in terms of fundamental (human) rights (freedom of religion, rights of the child). I will research how legal professionals influence this ‘socio-legal process of framing’ and whether it means gain in terms of the status of human rights principles.
The research is multidisciplinary and combines legal and empirical methods. Apart from paying attention to developments in law and court decisions, data will be gathered by means of interviews and analysis of office files and local and semi-private documents.

The research contributes to legal practice in terms of providing a basis for the development of ‘best practices’. It contributes to the legal anthropological theory of certain actors being best seen as ‘culture brokers’ or ‘translators/mediators’ between the language of fundamental rights and local cultural values. The analysis so far was on ‘translators’ like local and NGO activists. The thesis I want to investigate is that legal professionals increasingly play the role of ‘culture switchers’ in multicultural society. The research further contributes to the legal sociological theory of comparing legal cultures and finding the cultural factors that influence specific legal solutions in national legal systems. The thesis I would like to investigate is that national values influence the acceptability of framing social problems in terms of fundamental rights.

Important output in this field was published in the Utrecht Law Review 2010. On 14 November 2011 I organized (together with Titia Loenen) the seminar ‘Framing multicultural issues in terms of human rights: solution or problem?’ We wanted to investigate whether it makes a difference (for whom, in what sense?) to frame an issue one way or the other, and what the role is that the (human rights) law itself plays. Do human rights, especially the ready availability of for example ‘freedom of religion’ these days, steer towards and thus influence certain solutions? If so, what are the consequences in terms of ‘backfire’ for the human rights system and for social relations (both on micro and macro level)? What are the gains, and for whom? And not the least interesting: what does a comparison between countries teach us? These questions partly need to be addressed empirically, like whether framing multicultural issues in terms of human rights is a recent phenomenon and whether shifts in the use of specific human rights can be discerned. See the rechtstheorieUU blog for the programme.

My other research interest is the Alevi legal culture. An article on the Alevi cem as dispute settlement institution in Dutch is Eigen gedingen, overheidsrechtspraak en de valkuil van de analogie. Another in English is Religious Law versus State Law: The Case of the Turkish Alevis. The article is published in the online journal ‘Law, Social Justice and Global Development (LGD). In August 2009 I visited the city of Hacibektas in Turkey for the annual alevi festival (16-18 August). I will use the data gathered there for a chapter in a Dutch book on the contemporary legal context of the Alevi community, that will be published one day …

Earlier Research

From 2005-2007 I worked (at Erasmus University Rotterdam) on the project assigned to me by the Council for the Judiciary to investigate the role of ethnic minority cultures in Dutch legal practice. See the sublink culture in court.

Since 1998 (then working at the University of Amsterdam) I research the Dutch Alevi community and its internal legal forum during the cem-ceremony. See the sublink alevi cem.

In 1998 I got my PhD at the University of Amsterdam for research on the ritual behavior of Turkish defendants in court. See the sublink ritual in court.

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