Relational Justice: reconciliating murder in China

Dec 2 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge, MA

Michelle Miao (Assistant Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: William Alford (Jerome A. and Joan L. Cohen Professor of Law, Harvard Law School)

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

This talk analyzes and theorizes individual behaviors and social practices surrounding offender-victim reconciliation in murder cases in China. It explains that this partially-judicial process was enabled and shaped by, respectively, the role of the state, market forces and socio-cultural ties amongst individuals. Using the concept of relational justice, the talk explains, from a socio-cultural perspective, that interpersonal networks underpin the conception of justice in China. This nexus between relations and justice may explain why the judicial regulation of social conflicts focuses on the repair and restoration of social relations. The talk also illustrates that the economic transformations in China during the past decades led to the commodification of interpersonal relations. In this way, the talk provides an alternative approach for understanding the conception, process and function of justice in contemporary China. Rather than merely focusing on the concept of rule of law as a measurement of good governance, this talk explains why the notion of rule by relations might be also useful to articulate the logics of China’s judicial realism.