The construction of legal authority
: An ethnography of intrafamily violence procedures in Chilean family courts.

  • Ignacio Riquelme Espinosa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis is an ethnography of intrafamily violence (IFV) procedures in Chilean family courts (FCs). These procedures were implemented in 2005 following the legal reforms creating Chilean FCs and reforming the IFV law. Both reforms faced problems from the beginning, making IFV one of the most challenging issues faced by FCs today. Empirical studies of FCs’ IFV procedures are scarce, and there is little knowledge about the scope of the problems and the methods these courts have developed to address them. This thesis is the first detailed socio-legal analysis of this new part of Chilean jurisdictional work.

The analysis draws on and develops Actor-Network Theory (ANT) scholarship. It focuses on the socio-technical arrangements that FCs have produced to process and decide IFV cases, and the political implications of such arrangements. This ethnography contributes to three main strands of literature. First, it expands the scarce Chilean scholarship on Chilean jurisdictional exercise on IFV. The thesis provides a detailed analysis of a new and very understudied part of Chilean jurisdiction, demonstrating the challenges FCs faced in processing IFV cases. Secondly, this thesis develops the Chilean and Latin-American socio-legal scholarship by producing the first court ethnography in the country. This thesis offers an innovative ethnographic reading of the judicial reform process unfolding in Chile over the last 30 years. Lastly, this thesis contributes to ANT socio-legal scholarship. It develops new conceptualizations that expand this material-semiotic approach concerning jurisdictional activity. The ethnography examines the multiple controversies involved in stabilizing meaning through the judicial procedure and the fragility of legal authority in this regard.
Date of Award25 Jan 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorDave Cowan (Supervisor) & Emma Hitchings (Supervisor)

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