The Courtroom as a Space of Resistance: Reflections on the Legacy of the Rivonia Trial, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Courtroom as a Space of Resistance

Reflections on the Legacy of the Rivonia Trial, 1st Edition

By Awol Allo


360 pages

Look Inside
Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9781138295964
pub: 2017-05-24
SAVE ~$10.39
Hardback: 9781472444608
pub: 2015-08-07
SAVE ~$32.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315615073
pub: 2016-03-09
from $25.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


Fifty years before his death in 2013, Nelson Mandela stood before Justice de Wet in Pretoria's Palace of Justice and delivered one of the most spectacular and liberating statements ever made from a dock. In what came to be regarded as "the trial that changed South Africa", Mandela summed up the spirit of the liberation struggle and the moral basis for the post-Apartheid society. In this blistering critique of Apartheid and its perversion of justice, Mandela transforms the law into a sword and shield. He invokes it while undermining it, uses it while subverting it, and claims it while defeating it. Wise and strategic, Mandela skilfully reimagines the courtroom as a site of visibility and hearing, opening up a political space within the legal. This volume returns to the Rivonia courtroom to engage with Mandela's masterful performance of resistance and the dramatic core of that transformative event. Cutting across a wide-range of critical theories and discourses, contributors reflect on the personal, spatial, temporal, performative, and literary dimensions of that constitutive event. By redefining the spaces, institutions and discourses of law, contributors present a fresh perspective that re-sets the margins of what can be thought and said in the courtroom.


"Allo argues that in what came to be regarded as “the trial that changed South Africa,” Nelson Mandela summed up the spirit of the liberation struggle and the moral basis for the postApartheid society, invoking law while undermining it, using it while subverting it, claiming it while defeating it, and opening a political space within the legal. Contributors to this volume return to the Rivonia courtroom to engage with the event, reflecting on its personal, spatial, temporal, performative, and literary dimensions."

Law and Social Inquiry Journal

"This timely and powerful volume presents the court not as a neutral instrument of justice but as a site of contestation and critique, where the normative and performative clash, and where discourses of domination encounter practices of resistance. The chapters are challenging in the best sense of the word - they contest accepted views and interrogate received orthodoxies." - Lawrence Douglas, Amherst College, USA

"A welcome collection of intelligently crafted and often inspirational analyses that look back to the Rivonia Trial, a legendary and dramatic event in the struggle against Apartheid. At its heart, of course, is the bold and gracious figure of Nelson Mandela, the accused, engaging the rapt court with his momentous speech: a supreme act of resistance, articulated through the sincere admiration of Law, which served to expose the absurdities and betrayals of apartheid's perversion of Justice. The contributors explore the trial from their many complementary perspectives, showing how Mandela's vision for what seemed then like an impossible post-apartheid South Africa was a gift to which, still, we cannot stop giving time." - Vikki Bell, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK

Table of Contents

1. The Courtroom as a Space of Resistance: Reflections on the Legacy of the Rivonia Trial - Awol Allo

2. In the Name of Mandela - Derek Hook

3. When Time Gives: Reflections on Two Rivonia Renegades - Johan van der Walt

4. Nelson Mandela and Civic Myths: A Law and Literature Approach to Rivonia - Peter Leman

5. Justice in Transition: South Africa Political Trials, 1956–1964 - Catherine M. Cole

6. The Rivonia Trial: Domination, Resistance and Transformation - Catherine Albertyn

7. ‘The Road to Freedom Passes Through Gaol’: The Treason Trial and Rivonia Trial as Political Trials - Mia Swart

8. ‘I am the first accused’: Seven Reflections (and a Postscript) on Derrida’s Mandela - Jaco Barnard-Naudé

9. ‘Black man in the white man’s court’: Performative Genealogies in the Courtroom - Awol Allo

10. Reading Choreographies of Black Resistance: Courtroom Performance as/and Critique - Joel M. Modiri

11. What is Revealed by the Absence of a Reply? Courtesy, Pedagogy and the Spectre of Unanswered

Letters in Mandela’s Trial - Alison Phipps

12. Lawscapes: The Rivonia Trial and Pretoria - Isolde de Villiers

13. Literary Autonomy on Trial: The 1974 Cape Trial of André Brink’s Kennis van die Aand - Ted Laros

14. "The Unkindest Cut of All": Coloniality, Performance and Gender in the Courtroom and Beyond - Chloé S. Georas

15. Spectacular Justice: Aesthetics and Power in the Gandhi Murder Trial - Kanika Sharma

About the Author

Awol Allo is Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

About the Series

Critical Studies in Jurisprudence

The Critical Studies in Jurisprudence Series provides a forum for interdisciplinary study in the philosophical, political and sociological traditions of thinking about the law. It is these linkages and intersections that the series sets out to chart and explore, in the tradition of research undertaken in the Law Schools of Edinburgh and Glasgow for over twenty years. The series covers a broad field that includes legal reasoning and the ethics of rule following, public law and democratic theory, socio-legal studies and the sociology of punishment, crime, crime control and policing, the politics of transitional justice, as well as the sociology and anthropology of law. The Series places special emphasis on the function of law in its political dimension and with it, in the uses of critical legal theory, capturing something significant of the orientation and the priorities that animate research and teaching in both Law schools.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Public