Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

This book is inspired by innumerable people. I must acknowledge my debt, first, to Davina Bhandar for her wise mentorship that ushered me into an exciting and rigorous intellectual environment at Kent Law School, where I met many of my colleagues, mentors, and great friends and from which this book grew. A list of just a few of these mentors includes Stewart Motha, whom I credit for many things, but especially for training me to think long, hard, and independently. Stewart’s tenacious intellect combined with his great concern for justice will inspire me for the rest of my life. Also during..

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Introduction: Curating Community

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pp. 1-22

I experienced firsthand the powerful narratives of museums as a child growing up in a small city in Canada. Our school trips were often organized outings to local museums, where we learned, through interactive exercises, the history of our city and of Canada more broadly. On one particular excursion we were asked to pretend we were poor Irish immigrant children, crammed into bunks on a ship, awaiting our arrival in the new country. The staff instructed us to climb into the beds so we could relive the immigrant experience of our presumed ancestors. In many ways, this exercise...

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Chapter 1. Constituting the Political

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pp. 23-44

Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt, though divergent in their approaches and responses, focus on redressing what they see as the depoliticization and neutralization of the political in contemporary liberal democracy.2 For them, the power and potential of human society have been hollowed out by the hegemony of state-based politics. In response, they resuscitate respective notions of the political to attend to the crisis. Jean-Luc Nancy’s concern with the colonization of the political by politics is closely aligned with these critiques. Rather than see its subjugation to the already existing categories of...

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Chapter 2. Sovereign Orientations

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pp. 45-64

Museums have become an important site of political contestation and controversy in the latter half of the twentieth century.2 This is partly because the collections of many large national public museums grow directly out of histories of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism and have thus been accused of cultural appropriation, historical theft, and the propagation of civilizational hierarchies.3 As a result, museums are at the center of debates over representation and repatriation that are contested on political, ethical, financial, and psychical grounds....

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Chapter 3. The Time of Sovereignty

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pp. 65-84

Museums and constitutions are imagined as tools for righting historical wrongs and setting the course for a better future. Above, the British Museum asserts its centrality in the production of “new histories” that the world needs in order to “shape its future.” And, articulating the principles of what was soon to be the 1996 South African Constitution, former president Nelson Mandela claims that the new juridical order will both attend to the “wounds of the past” and construct a new future that will result in “justice for all.” Both statements draw on a conception of time that moves from the...

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Chapter 4. Monumental Politics

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pp. 85-104

The preamble to the 1996 South African Constitution sets out monumental ambitions for the new legal order. Not only does it aspire to heal the divisions of the past, lay the foundations for democracy, and build a united South Africa, it also declares its mission to free the potential of each person. Yet these aspirations are not confined to the Constitution itself. Even twelve years after its introduction, the Constitution continues to animate public discourse about the visions of a “new” South Africa.1 Significantly, the promise of the 1996 document has also found its way into contemporary...

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Chapter 5. Toward a Less Constitutional Constitutionalism

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pp. 105-122

Against the “pulling together” (in the words of the District Six Museum staff) or tying up of community (as in a social contract), countermonumentalism is the undoing of communion. It takes as its task the cessation of a stable conception of community and any attempt to institutionalize it by means of representation. In this way, countermonumental constitutionalism differs from the theories of Walker, Loughlin, and Christodoulidis, as well as those of Schmitt, Arendt, and Negri. Where these theorists share a predilection for instituting political community through a constitution, promise, or concept of absolute immanence, countermonumental constitutionalism challenges...

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Conclusion: Museums, Constitutions, and the Possibility of (a Different) Politics

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pp. 123-128

Constitutions are imagined to be the supreme and authoritative designators of political community. But museums also tell stories about membership (or lack thereof) in political community. Indeed, both museums and constitutions are sites from which these imaginations are launched, and both are animated by a resolute interest in producing community. This theme recurs even in alternative and critical approaches. While museums and constitutionalism attempt to address critiques of their representational inadequacies, the goal of representing community remains in their strategies of...

Notes

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pp. 129-166

Bibliography

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pp. 167-194

Index

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pp. 195-198