Legal Violence and the Limits of the Law: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Legal Violence and the Limits of the Law

1st Edition

Edited by Amy Swiffen, Joshua Nichols


192 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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What is the meaning of punishment today? Where is the limit that separates it from the cruel and unusual? In legal discourse, the distinction between punishment and vengeance—punishment being the measured use of legally sanctioned violence and vengeance being a use of violence that has no measure—is expressed by the idea of "cruel and unusual punishment." This phrase was originally contained in the English Bill of Rights (1689). But it (and versions of it) has since found its way into numerous constitutions and declarations, including Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Amendment to the US Constitution. Clearly, in order for the use of violence to be legitimate, it must be subject to limitation. The difficulty is that the determination of this limit should be objective, but it is not, and its application in punitive practice is constituted by a host of extra-legal factors and social and political structures. It is this essential contestability of the limit which distinguishes punishment from violence that this book addresses. And, including contributions from a range of internationally renowned scholars, it offers a plurality of original and important responses to the contemporary question of the relationship between punishment and the limits of law.

Table of Contents

  1. "It’s Not Just a Good Idea, It’s the Law": Rationality, Force, and Changing Minds
  2. Mark Kingwell

  3. Cruel and thus not Unusual: Jacques Derrida’s Seminar on the Death Penalty
  4. Michael Naas

  5. The Violent Rhetoric of Accusation: Cicero and the Marcus Ameleus Scaurus Case
  6. G. Pavlich

  7. The Colonialism of Incarceration
  8. Robert Nichols

  9. "Ran away from her Master…a Negroe Girl named Thursday": Examining Evidence of Punishment, Isolation, and Trauma in Nova Scotia and Quebec Fugitive Slave Advertisements
  10. Charmaine Nelson

  11. The Work of Death: Massacre and Retribution in Southampton County, Virginia, August 1831
  12. Christopher Tomlins

  13. Civilising Missions and Humanitarian Interventions: into the Laws and Territories of First Nations
  14. Irene Watson

  15. The Rhetoric of Abolition: Continuity and Change in the Struggle Against America’s Death Penalty, 1900-2010
  16. Austin Sarat, Robert Kermes, Adelyn Curran, Margaret Kiley, Keshav Pant

  17. "Too wicked to die": The enduring legacy of humane reforms to solitary confinement
  18. Kelly Struthers Munford, Kelly Hannah-Moffat, and Alex Hunter

  19. Nonviolent communion versus medieval ships of fools: Engaged-citizenry alternatives to Europe’s war on refugees

    Pablo Ouziel

About the Editors

Joshua Nichols is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Administration at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada and a Fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation.

Amy Swiffen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Criminal Law / General
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Essays
LAW / Judicial Power
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology