Victims in the shadow of the law

Report: Discrimination and law
A critique of the model of legal protection
By Kristin Bumiller, Laure Bereni, Vincent-Arnaud Chappe, Séverine Lacalmontie, Francis Corson

The article by Kristin Bumiller that is translated into French in this special issue initially appeared in Signs in 1987. It rests both on a critical legal perspective and on an empirical, comprehensive sociological approach, which prefigures the later emergence of Legal Consciousness studies. Drawing from a series of in-depth interviews, Bumiller finely points out the meaning of the law for individuals who perceived they had experienced discrimination, but who didn’t, for the most part, file a complaint. She offers a very pessimistic vision of the model of the legal protection, which in her view is unable to protect the victims of discrimination, caught in an interweaving of gender, class, and race power relations. Weighing the psychological and material costs associated to filing a complaint, as well as their low chances of achieving successful resolution of their claim, these individuals are guided by an “ethics of survival”, rather than accepting the stigmatizing status of “victims” of discrimination.


Go to the article on