Although postcolonialism is now the main mode in which the West's relation to the "other" is critically explored, and although law has been at the forefront of that very relation, a thorough engagement between law and postcolonialism has not been pursued, in part because this would drastically disrupt not just the persistent orthodoxy of law and development but also the newly settled consensus around legal globalization and international human rights discourse. These essays break new ground in using the ideas of postcolonialism in a critical analysis of the current consensus on the international influence of Western law and on Western ideas of law in general.
In perceptions of Western law there is an enduring disparity between law's pervasive power and its fragility. Many of these essays provide graphic accounts of law's tremendous shaping power in that massive occidental movement which settled and unsettled the globe. These accounts point to the West's encompassing and transforming of other peoples and other legal systems in ways which constitute and confirm the West in its own self-creation. Other essays deal with situations "within" the West which show how its identity is created, sustained, and also challenged in a constant reference to those contrary "others" which a powerful law has shaped and transformed. This challenge comes not least from the resistance of those "others" --resistances that profoundly disrupt the West and its law, revealing them as fractured at the seemingly confident core of their own self-constitution.
Contributors include Antony Anghie, Rolando Gaete, Alan Norrie, Dianne Otto, Paul Passavant, Jeannine Perdy, Colin Perrin, Annelise Riles, Roshan de Silva, and John Strawson, in addition to the editors.
Eve Darian-Smith is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara. Peter Fitzpatrick is Professor of Law, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London.