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Reflections on the Rise of Legal Theology

Law and Religion in the Twenty-First Century

John L. Comaroff

Religion has always been intimately connected to law. Conversely, modern secular law, born of the separation of lex naturae from lex dei, has always been deeply theological. However, with transformations in the construction of the nation-state and changes in the sociopolitical scaffolding of the global order, the mutual infusion of law and religion appears to be extending both in scope and in substance—not-withstanding the ever more strident assertion of secularism by some nation-states. Counter-intuitively, the law itself appears to be ever more suffused with the sacral, while, across the planet, the sacral is reconstructing constitutional jurisprudence, administrative law, and much more besides. How do we account for this, for the rise of expansive cultures of theo-legality? Where is it leading? And with what implications?

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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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Terminating Terror

The Legality, Ethics and Effectiveness of Targeting Terrorists

Avery Plaw

In the ongoing war on terror both the American and Israeli governments have resorted to a policy of ‘targeting terrorists’. In essence, both governments authorize their military or intelligence services to kill specific ‘terrorists’ who they believe mortally threaten citizens and cannot otherwise be neutralized. President Bush calls this ‘sudden justice’ and the Israeli government ‘targeted killing’ but their critics speak of ‘assassination’, ‘liquidation’ or ‘extra-judicial killing’. Since 11 September 2001, America is reported to have killed at least 44 people without warning or trial under the guidance of this policy, at least 18 of whom were civilians; the Israelis have killed at least 348, including 120 unintended targets (B’tselem 2006; Byman 2006b; Meyer 2006).

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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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Anthropology Meets History

Investigating European Societies

Christian Giordano

This article analyses the difficult relation between anthropology and history. The point, therefore, is to show how anthropology conceptualises the past differently from history as a discipline. Beginning with the differences between anthropology and history in terms of the concept of time, the article highlights that while for history time is concrete, objective and exogenous to human beings, for anthropology it is characterised by its being condensed, collectively subjective and endogenous. By analyzing actual examples, the article shows that the anthropologist is not interested in the past per se, but rather in the past as a dimension of the present. Accordingly, actualised, revised and manipulated history as well as the role of the past in the present need to be taken into account. Consequently, history and the past have their own specific efficiency because they are also a form of knowledge and social resource mobilised by single individuals or groups to find their bearings and act accordingly in the present and likewise to plan the future.

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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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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.

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Michael B. Loughlin

In 1901 Gustave Hervé’s image of the tricolore planted in a dung pile made him notorious. His career became etched into French consciousness when he subsequently shifted from antimilitarism to chauvinism and, between 1914 and 1918, promoted “war to the bitter end” to create a democratic, federated Europe. Because depopulation, alcoholism, and materialism were perceived as threats before 1914, his national socialism shared values with his idealistic prewar socialism. Though Hervé remained a religious skeptic until 1935, the image of an expiatory war was telling. He assailed anyone refusing to support deliverance from Prussian militarism. Hervé’s wartime rhetoric soon included references to a new Bonaparte, a resurrected Committee of Public Safety, or a military dictatorship to save la patrie en danger, presaging his later authoritarian or dictatorial programs. Though he stressed legality and deplored both violence and anti-Semitism, much in Hervé’s interwar positions could be described as republican fascism.

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Life at a Tangent to Law

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

Will Rollason

This article concerns the relationship between motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali and the legal frameworks that govern their business. While motorcyclists commonly subvert legal processes, or avoid complying with regulations, this should not be understood in terms of their ‘resistance’ to legal orders. To do so would imply that laws are imposed on their social lives from without; however, I show how illegalities help to structure social life by creating ‘mistakes’ that are the basis of social relations. I argue that motorcyclists do not confront legal orders in the idiom of resistance, but neither are they determined or shaped directly by legality. Rather, partially formed by breaches of rules, law is integral to their lives, shaping them indirectly or tangentially, according to the relationships and connections ‘mistakes’ with respect to law enable. Law regulates life not by encoding its rules, but by allowing certain kinds of relationships to form.