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Maddening Legalities

subjectivities and the law

J.P. Linstroth

Donahue, Katherine C. (2007) Slave of Allah: Zacarias Moussaoui vs. The USA. Ann Arbor, MI and London: Pluto Press. (206 pp., notes, bibliography, index; price: hardcover £50.00; paperback £15.19)

Kelly, Tobias (2006) Law, Violence and Sovereignty among West Bank Palestinians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (194 pp., references, index, illustrations; price: hardcover £52.25; paperback £18.99)

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Is anthropology legal?

Earthquakes, blitzkrieg, and ethical futures

Edward Simpson


This article is a contribution to the growing literature that suggests that the methodological and writing practices of anthropology are out of kilter with the times. The processual structures and regulative mechanisms that produce anthropological knowledge were formed when objection and engagement were not the almost-inevitable consequence of publication. Those who inform anthropological research now frequently object to the ways they are represented. My argument here focuses particularly on the relationship between the ethical structures of anthropology and the nature of objection. Thus far, the consistent response from anthropologists has been to explain away objections as differences in epistemology. In this light, I draw on an objection to my own research on postdisaster reconstruction in India to ask why there should not be disagreement between anthropologists and those who inform research. I also illustrate why the epistemological explanation is now insufficient and why new structures of research and writing might be required to make the leap from an age of objection.

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Niklas Hultin

This article examines the discourse surrounding the circulation of legal information in urban Gambia. It argues that ideas of information sharing suggest that Gambian law is fundamentally opaque, not simply in that it is not transparent but that it is only partially known. Drawing on the insights of Marilyn Strathern and other 'Melanesianists', the article further proposes that information sharing is a kind of relation and that opacity is a way of cutting relations. This in turn presents a way of apprehending African law that differs from the current emphasis on illegality and sovereignty in Africanist legal anthropology and focuses instead on emendation as a modality of engaging the law.

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Representing Sanctuary

On Flatness and Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre

Vinh Nguyen

classical sense or in more contemporary terms, sanctuary exists in contentious relation with the state and its apparatuses. What is being offered in sanctuary is a form of protection that does not take legality as its basis or reference point, and in fact

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Life at a Tangent to Law

Regulations, ‘Mistakes’ and Personhood amongst Kigali’s Motari

Will Rollason

being laid by the police, despite the irregularity of the situation and the transparency of André and his boss’s deception about who was riding the bike when it crashed. It seemed obvious that the real problem was about not legality per se, but rather

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Michael B. Loughlin

that gradually came to echo themes often associated with fascism. During the interwar era that party, while maintaining an apparent respect for republican legality, mutated into increasingly authoritarian forms that were expected to duplicate the

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The Rule of Law as a Condition for Development Toward Sustainability

Toward a New Legally Oriented Environment at a Global Level

Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini

oriented environment in a multilevel order. In the rule by law, law may be used as a tool to oppress or discriminate against people and avoid accountability under the guise of formality, legality, and legitimacy (see Sacco and Polcini 2017 ). The Italian

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The Corrupt State of Exception

Agamben in the Light of Putin

Jakob Rigi

This article revisits Agamben's concept of 'state of exception'. It argues that the postmodern state of exception is exercised not through the suspension of law, as Agamben suggests and as was the case with modern sovereignty, but through the counterfeiting of legality. The counterfeiting of law, which corrupts its meaning, is part of the broader 'corruption of sign' in the postmodern political-cultural economy. The article first details an extended case of counterfeiting of legality in the practices of business raiding, commonly termed reiderstvo, in Russia. It then describes and analyzes the main features of what I call the 'corrupt state of exception' in Russia. The article concludes with a few remarks on the paradigmatic nature of the state of exception in Russia and its consequences for legal and political anthropology.

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Julia Eckert and Laura Knöpfel


Responsibility and accountability in entangled global relations are negotiated across jurisdictional boundaries, localities and scales of legality. In this special issue, we trace struggles for corporate accountability from extraction sites in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru to an abandoned asbestos factory in Italy. We enquire into the gap between the legal institutions which govern attributions of responsibility in procedural, tort and corporate laws, lived experiences of harm connected to transnational business activities and moral expectations of responsibility in global relations. In the struggles for justice discussed in this special issue, we detect potential ways of rethinking ascriptions of responsibility to reflect the deep entanglements of our economies.

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Carolyn Nordstrom

Trillions of dollars move through the world’s markets illegally, and millions of people work in extra-state activities. They move everything from the dangerous (narcotics, toxic wastes, arms) through the luxurious (diamonds and art) to the necessary and the mundane (food, clothing, and electronics). Not only are fortunes made on these profits—empires are built. Empires that are, for various reasons, largely invisible. Illegal transactions are generally embedded in networks that span the globe. The most successful of these networks control finances and resources larger than many of the world’s countries. They can quite literally develop or cripple national emergent economies. These networks are not states, nor are they competing to become states. They thrive precisely because they constitute a different order of politics and economics than formal legal states (Nordstrom 2001). Illegal networks continuously intersect with states as they launder money into legality, move goods across the borders of il/legality, and turn corruption into politics by another name. But it is the tension between state and extra-state that gives both their power.