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Latour and the Passage of Law$
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Kyle McGee

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748697908

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748697908.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 26 May 2020

‘The Crown Wears Many Hats’: Canadian Aboriginal Law and the Black-boxing of Empire

‘The Crown Wears Many Hats’: Canadian Aboriginal Law and the Black-boxing of Empire

(p.93) 4 ‘The Crown Wears Many Hats’: Canadian Aboriginal Law and the Black-boxing of Empire
Latour and the Passage of Law

Mariana Valverde

Adriel Weaver

Edinburgh University Press

In this ambitious but earthbound critique of the ‘black-boxing of empire’, Mariana Valverde and Adriel Weaver adroitly trace the construction and deconstruction of the spectral corpus mysticum in Canadian legal discourse. The authors interrogate the weird legal agency of the Crown in aboriginal rights cases, disclosing the relentless production of novelty concealed beneath the conservative image of a continuous, eternal office and recalling the Latourian lesson about law’s soi disant homeostatic character: ‘even in this case [in which legal principles are modified], it will only be a matter of making the body of legal doctrine still more coherent, so that, in the last analysis, nothing will really have budged.’ These cases, Valverde and Weaver show, contract into themselves Canada’s colonial/postcolonial histories and the full weight of its legal tradition’s contradictory commitments. The sovereign gesture of recognition, offered by way of the ‘honour of the Crown’, paradoxically deprives the aboriginal nations so recognised of their very claim to existence, their nationhood: ‘the Canadian state now has obligations of sovereign/royal honour toward all aboriginal peoples … but the naming of those obligations simultaneously performs a kind of re-coronation of the very colonial sovereign whose servants caused so much harm to aboriginal peoples over the centuries’. Valverde and Weaver allow us to linger on this troubling sense of the uncanny, of the historical deja vu or phantasm of repetition that takes on materiality in the bilateral movement of the Crown through the networks of public law. It is a phantasm that reappears in the discursive techniques of judges that are, in fact, elaborating and reinventing precisely the discretionary doctrinal construct (‘honour of the Crown’) that they claim, instead, to merely appeal to, hearkening to an eternal spring of sovereign virtue through the mists of antiquity.

Keywords:   Sovereignty, Legal epistemology, Aboriginal law, Legal history, Empire, Discourse analysis

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