Colonialism and the State of Exception

Kohn Margaret and McBride Keally

in Political Theories of Decolonization

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780195399578
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894437 | DOI:
Colonialism and the State of Exception

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This chapter focuses on law as one dimension of the problem of transition into the postcolonial regime. Martial law was frequently declared in the colonies, but it remained controversial since it seemed antithetical to image of colonialism as a civilizing mission that would bring the rule of law to barbaric places. Mill, Burke, and Tocqueville all debated martial law; while they were in broad agreement about the legitimacy of the colonial state, they disagreed about the extent of exceptional measures. Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Achille Mbembe, on the other hand, argue that the real issue is the state itself not the exception. For Ngugi, the State of Emergency in Kenya revealed the deeper logic of colonial governance. Their approach to the concept of the state of exception, with its attentiveness to the lawlessness at the heart of legality itself, illuminates the problem of founding a new state out of the violent vestiges of the old order.

Keywords: martial law; state of exception; postcolony; narrative; Kenya; Ngugi; Mbembe; emergency

Chapter.  10157 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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