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Violence, publicity, and sovereignty: lawlessness in Mumbai

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Lawless violence often preceded the rule of law. British sovereignty depended on non-state actors such as the East India Company, whose lawless acts provoked the demand in the British Parliament for the rule of law. Contemporary terrorism marks a time when lawless violence proliferates and territorial boundaries are infringed upon, when state leaders invoke 'non-state actors' and argue for the need to respond in kind. Today the state mimics the behavior of private parties, justifying violence as revenge and practicing torture as the just desserts of terrorists. If one intention of terrorism is to drive a wedge between the law and its representation, and unsettle our understanding of the relationship between violence and visibility, state responses to terrorism such as in Mumbai confirm that public spaces can become zones of suspended legality.
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Keywords: Mumbai; democracy; lawless violence; media; non-state actors; politics of humanity; sovereignty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Culture and Communication, New York University,

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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