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Empire, Emergency and International Law
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Book description

What does it mean to say we live in a permanent state of emergency? What are the juridical, political and social underpinnings of that framing? Has international law played a role in producing or challenging the paradigm of normalised emergency? How should we understand the relationship between imperialism, race and emergency legal regimes? In addressing such questions, this book situates emergency doctrine in historical context. It illustrates some of the particular colonial lineages that have shaped the state of emergency, and emphasises that contemporary formations of emergency governance are often better understood not as new or exceptional, but as part of an ongoing historical constellation of racialised emergency politics. The book highlights the connections between emergency law and violence, and encourages alternative approaches to security discourse. It will appeal to scholars and students of international law, colonial history, postcolonialism and human rights, as well as policymakers and social justice advocates.


'John Reynolds explores the development and operation of emergency rule in colonial territories, and the enduring influence of this model on emergency law and, indeed, international law. There is a great deal he illuminates in this book, which combines erudition with superbly clear writing. The book examines ‘imperial emergency rule’ - it could in fact be termed a global history of imperial emergency rule - and connects together accounts of emergency that are often treated separately: colonial emergencies, the impact of these emergencies on the drafting of international legal instruments, and contemporary settler colonialism. It is by drawing on this range of diverse yet related materials that Dr Reynolds provides such a far-reaching account of the complexities of how emergency law operates, and such an incisive understanding of how it produces resistance from below. Empire, Emergency and International Law is an eloquent and valuable book which provides enduring insights into a pervasive feature of our times.'

Antony Anghie - author of Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law

‘This luminary work on states of emergency and settler colonialism has given us a fresh set of eyes with which to understand the structural aspects of law, and its intersections with vexing questions of power and governance, human rights and emancipation.’

Noura Erakat - George Mason University, Virginia

‘This is a profoundly important book that should reshape the way we explore and use international law and the concept of states of emergency, among many other things.’

Mark LeVine - University of California, Irvine

'Highly relevant for contemporary times, this book focuses on the colonial lineages that have shaped current emergency law. This is an exceptional book which goes to the very core of law itself and its relationship with power. It is simultaneously engaging and penetrating. Presenting very serious and complex issues in a highly accessible way, it is masterful and assured in its depth of analysis.'

Source: Irish Association of Law Teachers (IALT) Council, Kevin Boyle Book Prize Judging Panel

'This is a book which tackles complex questions with serious depth, while remaining accessible to the reader. It is grounded not only in legal theory, history and politics but is also informed by perspectives of on-the-ground activism and awareness of social change.'

Úna Ní Raifeartaigh - Judge of the High Court of Ireland

‘John Reynolds has written a book of immense importance in at least three distinct areas of law: legal history, international law and comparative law. The level of detail, the theoretical basis and the ability to display the link between historical eras and disparate territories demonstrate conclusively the origins of emergency law in the colonial experience, a critically important legacy that he documents in magisterial fashion. Reynolds grounds his book firmly in the camp of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), which serves his principal mission of discussing the racism, imperialism and colonialism at the heart of emergency law. It is hard to overstate the importance of Reynolds’ intervention. Empire, Emergency, and International Law is the corrective to the ahistorical and wrong-headed debate we have been subject to for far too long. It is an indispensable book that should serve as a frame of reference for any study on the law of emergency.’

Wadie Said Source: Journal of Conflict & Security Law

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