Bodies on the Line in Burma's Law Reports, 1892-1922

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    ‘A legal world is built,’ Robert Cover once wrote, ‘only to the extent that there are commitments that place bodies on the line’ (1986: 1601). Cover meant that through certain legal commitments bodies are made the subjects of violence. But bodies are also literally placed on the line in authoritative texts that bring the legal world into existence by mandating these commitments. This chapter investigates both these meanings through a reading of criminal case rulings published by Burma’s superior courts over a period of three decades from 1892 CE. Inasmuch as it is concerned with these meanings as found in a specific archive, it is also concerned with them generally, in the practices of political and juridical institutions everywhere. Law Reports – the published records of selected rulings from superior courts – interpret and legitimise prevailing social arrangements. These arrangements require the threat or exercise of physical force. The reports necessarily interpret and legitimise certain types of violence, while delegitimising unruly force beyond the borders of law (Sarat and Kearns 1992: 212-13).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLaw, Society and Transition in Myanmar
    Editors Melissa Crouch, Tim Lindsey
    Place of PublicationOxford, UK and Portland, OR, USA
    PublisherHart Publishing
    ISBN (Print)9781849465977
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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