15 November 2023

BOOK: George PAVLICH, Thresholds of Accusation: Law and Colonial Order in Canada (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023), 265 pp., ISBN 9781009334044, £95


(image courtesy: Cambridge University Press)

Book description: 
This critical socio-legal history probes pretrial accusations through which colonial criminal law forged social orders for settler-colonialism across western Canada, focusing on Alberta, 1874–1884. Following military intelligence, a Northwest Mounted Police force was established to compel Dominion law. That force began by deploying accusatory theatres to receive information about crimes, arrest suspects, and decide via preliminary examination who to send to trial. George Pavlich draws on exemplary performances of colonial accusation to show how police officers and justices of the peace translated local social lore into criminal law. These performances reflected intersecting powers of sovereignty, disciplinarily, and biopolitics; they held accused individuals legally culpable for crimes and obscured social upheavals that settlers brought. Reflecting on colonial legacies within today's vast and unequal criminalizing institutions, this book proposes that we seek new forms of accusation and legality, learning from Indigenous laws that tackle individual and collective responsibilities for societal disquiet. 

Table of contents: 
1. Grammars of critique and colonial accusation
2. Reconnaissance discourses for colonial law
3. Sovereign spectacles and criminal accusation
4. Justices of the peace at accusatory theatres
5. Training police accusers
6. Moulding accused individuals
7. Biopolitics and colonial accusation
8. Denouements and turned spades

About the author:
George Pavlich is H. M. Tory Chair and Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta. He has authored many books, co-edited several collections, and is widely published in leading journals. In 2022, he received the James Boyd Whyte Award from the Association of the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities.

More information can be found here

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