The flowering of scholarship on legal pluralism and its relation to histories of colonization and imperialism has tended to highlight one kind of violence, that of the colonizer against the indigene. Leading studies of the colonialist foundations of contemporary states have focused on crucial questions of the constitutive role of legal relations in the conscription of labour, or the transformation of households and familial and personal identities, or the subordination of ‘native law’ within a colonial governance regime. They have been less concerned to address the troubling subject of violence within and between the subordinated and incorporated communities and peoples of colonial and post-colonial societies. A simple test of these impressions is the infrequency of interpersonal violence as an object of study in the legal pluralist literature dealing with the history of law under colonial conditions (Fitzpatrick, 1980; Chanock, 1985; Fitzpatrick, 1989; Merry, 1999; Chanock, 2001). The violence of colonial legal regimes (the literal violence against the colonized and the violent displacement of ‘prior’ regimes) has instead been the focus of attention in a raft of studies of European imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that show no sign of abating (Anderson, 2005; Elkins, 2005; Esmeir, 2006; Banivanua-Mar, 2007; Kolsky, 2010; Povinelli, 2011). Yet, the resurgence of violence, inter-communal and interpersonal, in many postcolonial states has prompted more recent interrogation of the ambiguous legacies of legal and policing order (Comaroff and Comaroff, 2006).
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