Caviar and Friendship: Sensational Trials and the Reinvention of Public Space

Nicola Evans


Sensational trials are a venue for the performance of social knowledge—the kind of knowledge that does not regularly make an appearance on the front pages of national newspapers. if sensational trials routinely catapult private matters into the public sphere, it is less such exciting revelations that concern me here, than the dross kicked up in their wake. Sensational trials, I contend, are a point of entry into everyday life, that far more elusive zone of ordinary beliefs and practices situated between the institution and the bedroom, in the interstices of the scripted and chronicled domains of private and public life. To address the everyday is to confront those undocumented procedures and forms of knowledge that exist beyond the realm of official discourse, practices that cultural theorists are increasingly eager to explore and increasingly sceptical of finding. As Barry Sandywell recently observed, ‘Like the omnipollent term “community”, “everyday life” is in continuous use within lay and theoretical discourse and yet continuously evades definition. Perhaps ... we should ask “where is everyday life”?’ This paper argues that one answer to this question lies in the study of sensational trials.


sensational trials, cultural theory; social knowledge; public spaces; private sphere; private life

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