Constitutions: Writing Nations, Reading Difference, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


Writing Nations, Reading Difference, 1st Edition

By Judith Pryor

Birkbeck Law Press

256 pages

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Paperback: 9780415431934
pub: 2007-08-09
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pub: 2007-08-09
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Bringing a postcolonial perspective to UK constitutional debates and including a detailed and comparative engagement with the constitutions of Britain’s ex-colonies, this book is an original reflection upon the relationship between the written and the unwritten constitution.

Can a nation have an unwritten constitution? While written constitutions both found and define modern nations, Britain is commonly regarded as one of the very few exceptions to this rule. Drawing on a range of theories concerning writing, law and violence (from Robert Cover to Jacques Derrida), Constitutions makes a theoretical intervention into conventional constitutional analyses by problematizing the notion of a ‘written constitution’ on which they are based.

Situated within the frame of the former British empire, this book deconstructs the conventional opposition between the ‘margins’ and the ‘centre’, as well as between the ‘written’ and ‘unwritten’, by paying very close, detailed attention to the constitutional texts under consideration. Pryor argues that Britain’s ‘unwritten’ constitution and ‘immemorial’ common law only take on meaning in a relation of difference with the written constitutions of its former colonies. These texts, in turn, draw on this pre-literate origin in order to legitimize themselves. The ‘unwritten’ constitution of Britain can therefore be located and dislocated in postcolonial written constitutions.

Constitutions is an excellent addition to the bookshelves of all students of the philosophy of law, political theory, constitutional and administrative law and jurisprudence.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction. Constitutions: Writing Nations, Reading Difference 2. Theorizing Constitutional Texts 3. 'In the Name of God and of the Dead Generations': Proclaiming the Irish Republic 4. 'The Treaty Always Speaks': Reading Aotearoa New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi 5. 'Fracturing the Skeleton' of the Law: The Mabo Decision and the Re-Constitution of Australia 6. Conjuring Spectres: Locating the Constitution of Britain in its Post-Imperial Moment 7. Conclusion: Re-Reading Constitutional Texts

About the Author

Judith Pryor is an historian at the Waitangi Tribunal, New Zealand

About the Series

Birkbeck Law Press

Birkbeck Law School has been recognised as an international centre of research excellence, specialising in legal theory and theoretically informed socio-legal research and pioneering critical approaches to scholarship.

Birkbeck Law Press aims to develop a distinct publishing profile by addressing the legal challenges of late modernity. Globalisation and the move towards universal legal values, which should respect cultural specificities and local conditions, has created the urgent need for greater dialogue and understanding between the major schools of thought and legal systems in the world. Most legal publishing, driven by the needs of specialisation and the state-based nature of positive law, has not systematically addressed these concerns.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Constitutional
LAW / International
LAW / Jurisprudence