Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

De Ann Pendry

Committee Members

Raja Swamy, Tricia R. Hepner


This thesis seeks to contribute to the small but growing literature on anthropology and expert witnessing by conducting ethnographic research with anthropologists who have worked as expert witnesses. The goal of this project is to illuminate how anthropologists reflect on the production of knowledge, ethics, and their identity in the realm of expert witnessing. Through twelve online questionnaires and six follow-up interviews, this research discusses how ten anthropologists and two political scientists conceived of the “Fourth Reality,” or “the reflexive awareness of the expert witness as an expert witness” (Phillips 2017: 42) throughout the asylum process. This thesis covers: 1) the participants’ beginnings as expert witnesses and their motivations; 2) their feelings on compensation in relation to ethics, motivations, reciprocity; 3) their experiences and role throughout expert testimony including how they are contacted, their views on truth in testimony, and their vulnerabilities as experts during in-person testimony; and 4) their reflections on what happens after a court case including their decisions about whether and how to publish about expert witnessing and their participation in networks of other academics who expert witness in asylum cases. The thesis also considers how they discussed their roles as expert witnesses in relation to their subject positions as researchers in different types of employment and as mostly white professionals who were citizens of the host countries. In the conclusion, I also make suggestions for further research including widening the sample size to gain more understanding of race, ethnicity, and nationality in relation to the Fourth Reality and issues related to compensation for expert witnessing.

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