November 7, 2022
Matei CandeaUniversity of Cambridge

On the 22nd of March 2007, the 17th Chamber of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, also known as the Chamber of the Press and of public liberties, published a decision in the case brought by the Union of French Muslim Organisations (UOIF) and the Paris Mosque against Philippe Val, the editor of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, following its re-publication of the so-called 'Danish cartoons'. In what was by French standards an unusually long and detailed decision, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that the journal had publicly insulted Muslims on account of their religion. “The caricatures ruling”, as it came to be known, took on a life of its own in subsequent legal and public debates in France. Taking the decision itself as an ethnographic object, this paper examines the recursive dynamic through which the form of “the caricatures ruling” recapitulates its substance, in order to explore the interplay of authority, silence and context in both legal “juris-diction” (Richland 2013) and anthropological explanation.

Matei Candea is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Corsican Fragments (Indiana 2010) and Comparison in anthropology (Cambridge 2019), and the editor (with Fedirko, Heywood and Wright) of the forthcoming volume Anthropologies of Free Speech (Toronto University Press).