RENISA MAWANI /// The Archive: Fragments and Forces of Indigeneity


In this podcast, Renisa Mawani introduces her current work that uses the migrant ship Komagata Maru to address migration within its legal and temporal dimensions. We then continue this conversation by examining the arguments she made in the 2012 article “Law’s Archive,” which examines the available means to archive law within the collective narrative that the archive constitute. This means are politically and physically determined in such a way that the indigenous contribution — not always textual for instance — to this collective narrative cannot fully take part in it. This conversation has therefore for goal to challenge the way we commonly understand the notion of archive in the Western world, in order for a larger plurality of narratives to enter the common history.

Renisa Mawani is Associate Professor of Sociology and the first Chair of the Law and Society Minor Program at the University of British Columbia (2009-2010). She works in the fields of critical theory and legal history and has published widely on law, coloniality, and legal geography. Her articles have appeared in journals including, Law and Society Review, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Environment and Planning D, Theory, Culture, and Society, and Cultural Geographies. Her first book, Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Contacts and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921 (2009) details the dynamic legal encounters between indigenous peoples, Chinese migrants, mixed-race populations, and Europeans in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-centuries. Her second book, Across Oceans of Law (in progress), is a global legal history of the Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship that carried 376 Punjabi migrants from Hong Kong to Canada, and to India in 1914. The book draws on oceans to explore questions of empire, law, and time. She is also co-editor of “The Travels of Law: Indian Ocean Itineraries” (with Iza Hussin, University of Chicago) which is to be published by Law and History Review in Fall 2014.




– Renisa Mawani, “Law’s Archive”, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 8, 337-365, 2012.
– Jacques Derrida, “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundation of Authority,’” in Acts of Religion, ed., G. Anidjar, pp. 228-298. New York: Routledge, 2001.
– Jacques Derrida, “Archive Fever in South Africa,” in Refiguring the Archive, eds., C. Hamilton, V. Harris, J. Taylor, M. Pickover, G. Reid, R. Saleh, pp. 38-80. London: Kulwer Academic Publishing, 2002.
– Nora Akawi, “Mapping Intervals: Toward an Emancipated Cartography” (September 2012), for The Funambulist Papers: Volume 1 (Punctum Books, 2013)


– Renisa Mawani, Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010.
– Renisa Mawani, Accross Oceans of Law, forthcoming
Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Translated by E. Prenowitz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
– Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and Media Technology. Translated by G. Winthrop-Young. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008a.


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