Research Seminar - George Pavlich, Professor of Law and Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada
Title: Recognition and the Colonial Theatre of Law
Abstract: Throughout the 19th century, colonial law secured jurisdiction by recognizing specific sorts of persons and actions as legitimate targets for its ordering forces. Legal recognition also involved authorized agents who decided on which truths, idioms, procedures, and institutions constituted colonial ‘law’. When fixing a jurisdictional gaze specifically on persons it accused of being criminals, for example, this law depended on institutional settings — or theatres — to signal the start of criminalizing rituals. My presentation focuses on such settings by examining the overlooked role that Justices of the Peace (JPs) played in deploying colonial theatres of criminalization in what is today called Alberta — emphasising the decade following the North West Mounted Police’s arrival in 1874. Providing an analysis of preliminary examinations and contemporary handbooks/guides, I explore how JPs: received information that crimes had taken place; named accusers and accused in uniform ways; used legal idioms of transcription; and decided on whether to send accused persons to further reaches of criminal justice networks. The paper concludes by reflecting on the Justices' legacy as legal agents whose delegated powers of recognition helped to shape massive, if unequal, criminal justice institutions that tenaciously confront us today.