Courtroom Talk and Neocolonial Control
The book uses critical sociolinguistic analysis to examine the social consequences of courtroom talk. The focus of the study is the cross-examination of three Australian Aboriginal boys who were prosecution witnesses in the case of six police officers charged with their abduction. The analysis reveals how the language mechanisms allowed by courtroom rules of evidence serve to legitimize neocolonial control over Indigenous people. In the propositions and assertions made in cross-examination, and their adoption by judicial decision-makers, the three boys were constructed not as victims of police abuse, but rather in terms of difference, deviance and delinquency. This identity work addresses fundamental issues concerning what it means to be an Aboriginal young person, as well as constraints about how to perform or live this identity, and the rights to which Aboriginal people can lay claim, while legitimizing police control over their freedom of movement. Understanding this courtroom talk requires analysis of the sociopolitical and historical actions and structures within which the courtroom hearing was embedded. Through this analysis, the interrelatedness of structure, agency, constraint and change, which is central to critical sociolinguistics, becomes apparent. In its investigation of language ideologies that underpin courtroom talk, as well as the details of how language is used, and the social consequences of this talk, the book highlights the need for far-reaching changes to courtroom rules of evidence.