This article explores the case of the adoption of Southeast Asia’s first constitution (Johor, 1895) to articulate a fundamental problem of translation—the ambiguity and multiplicity of law’s language. Closer attention to this problem helps raise a number of possibilities for rethinking the relationship between law, language, and mobility: firstly, polyphony, dissonance, and divergence in law’s language reveals a plethora of political possibilities, audiences, and actors in the making of law; secondly, these ambiguities and multiplicities are integral to law’s mobility; thirdly, rather than transmissions of law from center to periphery, law moves in circulations that are iterative, contingent, and patterned. Finally, tracing the movement of law in time and space reveals that each project of translation is also a project of political transformation: as such, analysis of law’s translations also requires analyses of how, why, and with whom, law travels.


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pp. 145-158
Launched on MUSE
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