2019

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During more than a century of colonial rule over Algeria, the French state shaped and reshaped the meaning and practice of Muslim law by regulating it and circumscribing it to the domain of family law, while applying the French Civil Code to appropriate the property of Algerians. In Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930, Judith Surkis traces how colonial authorities constructed Muslim legal difference and used it to deny Algerian Muslims full citizenship. In disconnecting Muslim law from property rights, French officials increasingly attached it to the bodies, beliefs, and personhood.

Surkis argues that powerful affective attachments to the intimate life of the family and fantasies about Algerian women and the sexual prerogatives of Muslim men, supposedly codified in the practices of polygamy and child marriage, shaped French theories and regulatory practices of Muslim law in fundamental and lasting ways. Women's legal status in particular came to represent the dense relationship between sex and sovereignty in the colony. This book also highlights the ways in which Algerians interacted with and responded to colonial law. Ultimately, this sweeping legal genealogy of French Algeria elucidates how "the Muslim question" in France became—and remains—a question of sex.

Theaters of Pardoning Bernadette Meyler September 2019
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From Gerald Ford's preemptive pardon of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump's claims that as president he could pardon himself to the posthumous royal pardon of Alan Turing, the power of the pardon has a powerful hold on the political and cultural imagination. In Theaters of Pardoning, Bernadette Meyler traces the roots of contemporary understandings of pardoning to tragicomic "theaters of pardoning" in the drama and politics of seventeenth-century England. Shifts in how pardoning was represented on the stage and discussed in political tracts and in Parliament reflected the transition from a more monarchical and judgment-focused form of the concept to an increasingly parliamentary and legislative vision of sovereignty.

Meyler shows that on the English stage, individual pardons of revenge subtly transformed into more sweeping pardons of revolution, from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, where a series of final pardons interrupts what might otherwise have been a cycle of revenge, to later works like John Ford's The Laws of Candy and Philip Massinger's The Bondman, in which the exercise of mercy prevents the overturn of the state itself. In the political arena, the pardon as a right of kingship evolved into a legal concept, culminating in the idea of a general amnesty, the "Act of Oblivion," for actions taken during the English Civil War. Reconceiving pardoning as law-giving effectively displaced sovereignty from king to legislature, a shift that continues to attract suspicion about the exercise of pardoning. Only by breaking the connection between pardoning and sovereignty that was cemented in seventeenth-century England, Meyler concludes, can we reinvigorate the pardon as a democratic practice.

The Moral Witness: Trials and Testimony after Genocide
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The Moral Witness is the first cultural history of the "witness to genocide" in the West. Carolyn J. Dean shows how the witness became a protagonist of twentieth-century moral culture by tracing the emergence of this figure in courtroom battles from the 1920s to the 1960s—covering the Armenian genocide, the Ukrainian pogroms, the Soviet Gulag, and the trial of Adolf Eichmann. In these trials, witness testimonies differentiated the crime of genocide from war crimes and began to form our understanding of modern political and cultural murder.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the "witness to genocide" became a pervasive icon of suffering humanity and a symbol of western moral conscience. Dean sheds new light on the recent global focus on survivors' trauma. Only by placing the moral witness in a longer historical trajectory, she demonstrates, can we understand how the stories we tell about survivor testimony have shaped both our past and contemporary moral culture.