This panel will explore the entry of law as a mode of rights and claims staking, and the means and effects of appropriations of state law in colonial and postcolonial contexts.
Just as the modern nation-state was erected on a scaffolding of laws, so too encounters with law and its categorical logic has been a key way in which the state becomes tangible in the everyday lives of indigenous and colonised peoples. While the rise of "cultures of legality", or a certain fetishism of the law, has been linked to the neoliberal displacement of the political into the legal (Comaroff and Comaroff 2006), it also often precedes it, and does not appear to have weakened with the demise of the neoliberal multicultural model. On the contrary, there are signs that the "post-neoliberal" period is characterised precisely by an acceleration of the formalisation and objectification of local modes of justice. Political forms and categories have also tended to proliferate, and these too can become enrolled in "the legal" as a medium for communicating claims. This panel will explore the comparative historical entry of law as a mode of rights and claims staking, including the means and effects of encounters with state law in colonial and postcolonial contexts. How are peoples for whom law is an introduced apparatus of relationship-making now appealing to legal concepts as they seek to transform their lives? How is the law invoked, appropriated and "customised" (Beyer 2015)? How are indigenous or vernacular legalisms connected to the exercise of power at different scales? What are the unseen consequences of the translation into law of local demands and desires, including the gradual transformation of the idea of justice itself?