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Occupied Cape judges and colonial knowledge of crime, criminals, and punishment

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  • This article returns to a colonial discourse on crime, criminals, and punishment that the court of justice enunciated and followed during an 8-year British occupation of the Cape of Good Hope in the latter part of 1795. Tapping unusually frank juridical discussions on criminality and punishment in the context of sovereignty politics, it examines three key matters. Commencing with a description of the Cape colony’s inquisitorial criminal procedures, the analysis—following Foucault (2000)—conceives of these as powers (political techniques) through which the British claimed an exclusive capacity to enunciate legal “truths” about specific criminal events. Second, it analyzes a unique correspondence between the British military commander and the court of justice members together with two illustrative criminal cases of the day. These provide a sense of the judge’s knowledge of crime and criminal punishment in a social context that imagined itself through social differentiation and hierarchy. Third, it reads these colonial power-knowledge formations as generating three congruent political logics that in hybrid combinations have nurtured segmented, racially orientated, and group-based criminal justice arenas. This discussion alludes to the pivotal role colonial discourses of criminal law have played in generating a politics that shaped the criminal justice arenas of subsequent social forms. New, and differently combined, political logics of sovereignty, discipline, and biopolitics have left a decided legacy to which post-colonial arenas continue to respond.

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  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
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  • License
    Attribution 4.0 International
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Pavlich, G. (2014). Occupied Cape judges and colonial knowledge of crime, criminals, and punishment. Sage Open, 4(1), 1-11. doi: 10.1177/2158244013520612
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