‘Undoubtedly an expert’? Anthropologists in British asylum courts



Many British social anthropologists have been asked in recent years to provide expert evidence for use in legal appeals by asylum seekers. This article describes the administrative and legal decision-making procedures to which asylum claims are subject. It considers how the courts respond to ‘objective evidence’ from ‘country experts’ such as anthropologists, comparing this to legal approaches to evidence from medical experts. The problems which arise – especially in relation to the key issue of an asylum seeker's ‘credibility’– are analysed with reference to diverse forms of reasoning among social scientists and lawyers, and their different understandings as to the nature of ‘fact’ and ‘truth’.