“You Were Interested in Him as a Person?”: Rhythms of Domination in the Kennedy Smith Rape Trial


  • Gregory M. Matoesian

    1. Gregory M. Matoesian is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Matoesian acknowledges the support of University of Illinois at Chicago Campus Research Board, the UIC Office of Social Science Research, and the UIC Institute for the Humanities. He also thanks Don Lance, Beth Mertz, Mindie Lazarus-Black, and Martha Komter for very detailed comments and advice, which, he says, “I have shamelessly exploited for this revision (especially Beth's perspicacious observations on linguistic ideology). I also thank Lisa Frohmann, Valerie Fridland, Eve Wiederhold, and the anonymous reviewers for their help. I am especially grateful to Eve for her detailed and delicate transcriptions of the recordings as well.”
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In this study I explore the theoretical and linguistic implications of the Kennedy Smith rape trial, using transcriptions of real live testimony as data. I examine theoretically how the logic of inconsistency in trial testimony of the victim and other witnesses activates an interaction among language, law, and culture as an epistemological practice of domination. In microlinguistic detail, I examine the categorization of action, linguistic ideologies, and situated rhythms of legal language through which our sexual identities are constituted to create an apparent inconsistency in the victim's account. Looking at the law-in-action, I hope to show how social actors use language and culture to create meaning in their legal interaction.