Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trabsky on Bureacracy, Professionalism and the Coroner in Australia

We usually only post abstracts for publicly available papers, but I’m posting the abstract for this gated paper anyway, not simply because, as a law student, I wrote a never-published paper on coroners, but also because a work that historicizes the blurred and shifting line between judicial and administrative officials and functions is very welcome.  The paper is The Coronial Manual and the Bureaucratic Logic of the Coroner's Office, written by Marc Trabsky, La Trobe University School of Law, and published in the International Journal of Law in Context 12 (June 2016): 195-209.  Professor Trabsky’s article is part of a symposium issue, Frontiers in Coronial Justice.
This paper examines the coronial manual as a technique of occupying office in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The manual guided coroners in the performance of their duties, obligations and responsibilities. It was preoccupied with questions of technical knowledge, operational processes and administrative procedure. The language of office that characterised coronial treatises prior to the eighteenth century was gradually supplemented in the nineteenth century by the discourse of bureaucracy. This paper argues that the guidebook professionalised the office of coroner in Australia by setting out procedures, forms and rituals for assuming responsibility for the dead. It also provided advice to coroners for devoting themselves to a vocation in the public service. The paper thus traces historical shifts in the technology of the coronial manual in British colonies and examines how a bureaucratic logic of the coroner's office affected the way in which coroners pursued justice during the death investigation process.