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Singing the LawOral Jurisprudence and the Crisis of Colonial Modernity in East African Literature$
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Peter Leman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621136

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621136.001.0001

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Introduction: Temp/orality in Law and East African Literature

Introduction: Temp/orality in Law and East African Literature

(p.1) Introduction: Temp/orality in Law and East African Literature
Singing the Law

Peter Leman

Liverpool University Press

The introductory chapter establishes a critical framework for reading oral jurisprudence in East Africa in relationship to narratives of temporality in British colonial law, colonial and postcolonial literatures, and modern law generally. I begin with a brief analysis of the 2012 trial Mutua and others v. The Foreign Commonwealth Office to illustrate the relationship between law and time and the lasting effects of the British Empire’s “crisis of modernity,” or simultaneous promotion of and retreat from modernity as it faced resistance in the colonies. I then theorize the oral-legalistic strategies that colonial subjects developed to exploit this crisis and restore, imaginatively at first, what was lost in the encounter with colonial time. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has argued that orature, in particular, “played the most important role” in anti-colonial struggles, and this is so because of its relationship to the deep history of colonial law, which unwittingly empowered legalistic orature with the force of subversion as well as restoration. I conclude with a discussion of East Africa’s important but misunderstood place in the history and development of modern law.

Keywords:   Law and Literature, East Africa, Temporality, Orature, Oral Jurisprudence, Colonial Law, Crisis of Modernity, Indirect Rule, Frederick Lugard, Winston Churchill

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