Sovereignty, Security, and the Exception

Towards Situating Postcolonial homo sacer

Authored by: Shelia Nair

Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory

Print publication date:  March  2011
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415548250
eBook ISBN: 9780203875575
Adobe ISBN: 9781135997946

10.4324/9780203875575.ch32

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Abstract

The US “war on terror” has led liberal democracies to openly voice their disavowal of due process, basic human decencies, and civil liberties (selectively applied in the best of times); a disavowal that is rationalized in the name of justice. The messy complexities of a post 9/11 world have thus been reduced to conventional aphorisms – an epic struggle against good and evil. In this narrative collateral destruction of whole neighborhoods and villages in Iraq and Afghanistan is rendered an unfortunate, but unavoidable, consequence of a just war. Retribution accompanies a reinterpretation and reformulation of mid-twentieth-century international humanitarian and human rights laws, foundational in their conception and application. But acts of retribution also highlight the “privileged – and lazy – immunity” of intellectuals and scholars whose abstract inquiries into the constitution of sovereign violence and power are troubled by vulnerable bodies marked in the unleashing of this power (Gregory 2004: xiii). The exception, specifically the state of exception, has much currency in this context of neo-liberal rationalizations of violence.

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