Beyond a Clash of Cultures: Schapelle Corby's My Story and Comparable High Profile Criminal Trials

McGregor, Katharine E.; Pennell, C. R.
October 2008
Australian Journal of Asian Law;Oct2008, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p26
Academic Journal
This article examines the way in which the case of Schapelle Corby was presented both in her own book and in the media more generally. It compares the presentation of this case with similar examples of high profile trials of individuals accused of crimes in foreign countries. These include people from 'Western' countries accused in Asian and Middle Eastern courts, but also Asians accused in other Asian states, and Middle Easterners tried and punished in other countries in the region. In doing so, the article argues that, while the rhetoric that surrounds them draws upon civilisational clashes for its language, the cases can be better explained in terms of domestic political controversies and attempts to draw sympathy, rather than international standoffs. An examination of the variety of local responses shows that an explanation of these cases in terms of civilisational clash or legal Orientalism is inadequate. The article argues that the stories of defendants are regularly swamped by these wider agendas, so that their cultural identity is called into question. It suggests that a pre-modern principle -- that of 'personality of law' -- may be a useful starting point in understanding the potency of these cases. This principle held that individuals were to be judged by their own laws wherever they might be, that foreigners carried their own laws with them. This converged with concepts of immunity from foreign law that resulted from colonial rule. Thus responses to these cases were not simply cultural standoffs, instead they became fora for the complex negotiation of issues of identity, nation and law, emblematised by conflicting cultural narratives.


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