Awol K. Allo


Questioning the indifference of the law to its own normative correctness and its claim to legitimacy, this article explores the epistemological and ontological foundations upon which the concept and lexicon of show trial is predicated. By invoking the theory of performativity, the article distinguishes between the different models of show trials to allow for a more complex and nuanced reading of the particular nature of the show in judicial practices often called ‘show trials.’ By emphasizing the peculiarity of the ‘show’ in each ‘show trial’, the article seeks to reconceptualize the ambit of the criminal trial. Arguing against the emphasis on the label, it seeks to go beyond the semantics to reveal what is concealed in the invocation of the discourse of justice. It then goes on to analyze the ability of the criminal trial to survive radical political agendas aimed at shaping events outside the courtroom. The article will conclude with some reflections on the interrelationship between the juridical purposes of the trial, the nature of strategized communication, and the performative trial.