This introductory chapter first sets out the book's purpose, which is to demonstrate the important contribution of writing and literary fiction to understanding the relationship between colonialism, law and political violence in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Specifically, it assesses the multiple and conflicting ways in which literary and cultural texts have either contributed to and/or interrogated the necessity for emergency legislation across a range of different historical and political contexts. The chapter then examines one of the foundational critical texts on states of emergency: Benjamin's Eighth Thesis on the concept of history. It goes on to discuss the literature of empire — an important resource for understanding the legal and extra-legal nuances of colonial states of emergency. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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