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Law's Fragile State
Colonial, Authoritarian, and Humanitarian Legacies in Sudan

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

  • Date Published: May 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107440050

$ 37.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • How do a legal order and the rule of law develop in a war-torn state? Using his field research in Sudan, the author uncovers how colonial administrators, postcolonial governments and international aid agencies have used legal tools and resources to promote stability and their own visions of the rule of law amid political violence and war in Sudan. Tracing the dramatic development of three forms of legal politics - colonial, authoritarian and humanitarian - this book contributes to a growing body of scholarship on law in authoritarian regimes and on human rights and legal empowerment programs in the Global South. Refuting the conventional wisdom of a legal vacuum in failed states, this book reveals how law matters deeply even in the most extreme cases of states still fighting for political stability.

    • This is the first longitudinal study of legal development - by colonial, authoritarian and humanitarian elites - in Sudan
    • Based on in-depth field research, ethnographic observations and 175 qualitative interviews with government officials, lawyers, judges and activists in Sudan
    • This book significantly develops the emerging concept of legal politics: how state and non-state actors use legal tools and resources - from building courthouses to promoting human rights - to achieve political, social or economic goals
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    • Winner of the 2014 Herbert Jacob Book Award, Law and Society Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    "A remarkable piece of socio-legal scholarship [made] into an incredibly readable story."
    Law and Society Association award citation

    "Challenges our assumptions about the notion that law promotes democracy and human rights … [an] insightful study."
    American Political Science Association award citation

    "An important and original contribution … groundbreaking … overdue and much needed."
    Lutz Oette, Journal of African Law

    "Insightful, sober, and forward-looking analysis of the practice of human rights in the harsh realities of violent conflict and moral ambivalence."
    Abdullahi An-Na'im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, Emory University

    "A meticulous examination of the multiple roles, uses, and users of law in and by all of Sudan's several successive 'fragile states' … This is a bracing and important book, humane and wise, in domains where neither humanity nor wisdom has been conspicuous."
    Martin Krygier, Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory, University of New South Wales

    "Ambitious, passionate, and eminently readable - Law's Fragile State challenges the presumption that law is all but absent in war-torn contexts like that of Sudan … [it] pushes the boundaries of law and society scholarship on several fronts at once."
    Tamir Moustafa, author of The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt

    "Well-researched … well-written [and] thought-provoking … Highly recommended."

    "Beautifully illustrates how law served political ends over 114 years of Sudanese history … a personal and a professional journey [and] an outstanding contribution to a global literature."
    Rachel E. Stern, Law and Politics Book Review

    "Law's Fragile State invites us to interrogate exactly what we mean by the rule of law and what we expect it to accomplish."
    Sally Engle Merry, Law and Social Inquiry

    "A rich interdisciplinary analysis grounded in extensive fieldwork … a compelling story."
    Rachel Ellett, Law and Social Inquiry

    See more reviews

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107440050
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 2 maps 5 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Lawfare and warfare in Sudan
    2. The colonial path to the rule of law, 1898–1956
    3. Law in a state of crisis, 1956–89
    4. Authoritarian legal politics and Islamic law, 1989–2011
    5. Law and civil society, 1956–2011
    6. Humanitarian legal politics in an authoritarian state, 2005–11
    7. Reflections on legal politics.

  • Author

    Mark Fathi Massoud, University of California, Santa Cruz
    Mark Fathi Massoud is Assistant Professor in the Politics Department and Legal Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received the American Political Science Association Edward S. Corwin Award for the best dissertation in public law and the Law and Society Association Dissertation Prize. Massoud spent fifteen months in Sudan researching this book, including a year under a Fulbright-Hays fellowship.


    • Winner of the 2014 Herbert Jacob Book Award, Law and Society Association
    • Honourable Mention, 2014 C. Herman Pritchett Award, Law and Courts Section, American Political Science Association

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