Binding a Future of Violence: Acts, Signs, and Interpretations in the Racial State

Moore, Abigail, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Reed, Isaac, University of Virginia

The underlying theoretical question driving Binding a Future of Violence: Acts, Signs, and Interpretations in the Racial State asks what it would mean to think of the state not as having a monopoly on legitimate violence, but as having a monopoly on the processes of legitimation for violence. While these phrases may amount to very similar things in practice, approaching the relationship between the state and various forms of violence from the perspective of legitimation shifts the analytical emphasis to processes of interpretation, and the legal validation and perpetuation of certain interpretations over others. I argue that temporality has been a broadly neglected aspect of this signification. That is, the Supreme Court is an arena in which interpretations about the past, present, and future of specific acts of violence function to actively influence whether that violence will be reproduced, or will be radically resignified. Many studies already exist that trace the processes by which certain acts come to be resignified within the legal system—the advent of the concepts of domestic violence and hate speech are two such examples from the past century. But what is the relationship of these processes of resignification to state power itself? I am arguing that legal resignifications are not authorized by pre-existing sources of state power. Rather, the process of legal resignification is itself one of the primary mechanisms by which state authority is constructed, legitimated, and continuously iterated.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Supreme Court, Semiotics, Cultural Theory, Race, Temporality
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