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Keynote address

Law and disorder in the postcolony: is Europe evolving toward Africa?

Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago

Are postcolonies haunted more by criminal violence than European nation-states? The usual answer, both scholarly and popular, is yes. In this essay, I suggest that the question is misplaced: that the predicament of postcolonies arises from their place in a world order dominated by modes of governance, sorts of empire, and species of wealth that conspire ever more to criminalizes poverty and race, and deflect corruption south of the border. But there is also another side to all this: while many postcolonies live in states of endemic disorder, a large number of them fetishise the law, its ways and means. How are we to explain the coincidence of disorder with a fixation on legalities? In Law and disorder in the postcolony: is Europe evolving toward Africa? I address this question, and argue that postcolonies have become crucial sites for the production of contemporary theory, not least because they are harbingers of a global future under construction.

Jean Comaroff
Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny
Distinguished Service Professor
Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory
University of Chicago