An Interdisciplinary Perspective
Edited By Vito Breda and Lidia Rodak
Cosmin Cercel - 8. The Purloined Letter: Law, History and the Theory of Totalitarianism
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University of Nottingham School of Law, UK
8. The Purloined Letter: Law, History and the Theory of Totalitarianism
“[T]o conceal his letter, the Minister has resorted to the comprehensive and sagacious expedient of not attempting to conceal it at all”1
Abstract: This chapter aims to further problematize the question of objectivity within legal and historical discourse by exploring the theoretical intricacies raised by the historiography of totalitarianism. It tries to do so by focusing on the ambiguous status of law within authoritarian settings, one marked by a thorough complicity between ideology and ‘legal’ normativity. Along these lines, this chapter addresses three core questions, namely the structuring role of the theory of totalitarianism in historical and memorial discourses over the law in authoritarian contexts, the historiographical and jurisprudential implications of approaching the past through this framework as well as the construction of meaning through a historical recollection marked by the paradox of evil law. By underlining the pivotal role of the theory of totalitarianism in the politics of representing the past, I attempt through a genealogical reading informed by the work of Giorgio Agamben and Lacanian psychoanalysis to explore the potentialities of a different rendering of totalitarian law as part of legal modernity. In this way I intend to critically examine the limits of representation of law and totalitarianism in both historiographical and jurisprudential setting.
Keywords: law, memory, psychoanalysis, state of exception, totalitarianism
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