Law and Critique

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 293–311 | Cite as

Across Islands and Oceans: Re-imagining Colonial Violence in the Past and the Present

Renisa Mawani. 2018. Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire. Durham: Duke University Press Elizabeth McMahon. 2016. Islands, Identity and the Literary Imagination. London and New York: Anthem Press Stewart Motha. 2018. Archiving Sovereignty: Law, History, Violence. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Honni Van RijswijkEmail author
  • Anthea Vogl
Review Article


The three texts addressed in this review essay challenge us to question and creatively re-imagine the representation of material spaces at the centre of the colonial project: oceans, islands, ships and archives. Elizabeth McMahon deconstructs the island and its metaphorics, charting the relationship of geography, politics and literature through the changing status of islands, as imagined by colonists, beginning in the Caribbean and ending in Australia. Renisa Mawani destabilises colonial geography by re-animating the ocean and presents, amongst others, the ship and the ocean, as both method and juridical form. Writing against the ‘free sea’, Mawani addresses the imperial reliance on control of the ocean and the intensive juridification of the sea. Stewart Motha re-imagines law’s aggressive acts of adjudication, and challenges its originary fictions by exploring the logic, aesthetics and violence of legal processes that preserve and disavow the past at the same time. Each monograph considers the imaginaries, fictions and material geographies of colonialism, alongside how these imaginaries have been used as sites of counter-claim and resistance by those subjected to their technologies.


Komagata Maru Legal violence Island imaginary Renisa Mawani Elizabeth McMahon Stewart Motha Oceans as method Sovereignty 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia

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