Beyond Agamben: Sovereignty, policing and ‘permissive space' in South Africa, and beyond

The work of Giorgio Agamben has been widely used by criminologists and others to explore policing and sovereignty across the globe. In this article, I explore Agamben's conceptual framework, focusing on the commonly deployed ideas of ‘state of exception' and ‘homo sacer'. I highlight...

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Published in:Theoretical criminology
Main Author: Cooper-Knock, Sarah-Jane (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2018
In:Theoretical criminology
Year: 2018, Volume: 22, Issue: 1, Pages: 22-41
Online Access: Resolving-System
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Summary:The work of Giorgio Agamben has been widely used by criminologists and others to explore policing and sovereignty across the globe. In this article, I explore Agamben's conceptual framework, focusing on the commonly deployed ideas of ‘state of exception' and ‘homo sacer'. I highlight the limitations of Agamben's legalistic theories, and argue that they leave us with an impoverished understanding of how sovereignty is negotiated in everyday life. As I demonstrate, scholars who have attempted to adapt Agamben's ideas have failed to overcome these limitations in his analysis. I conclude that we must look for new ways forward and introduce the concept of ‘permissive space' as an alternative to Agamben's theoretical framework: an idea that allows a more nuanced and comprehensive analysis. Drawing on 10 months of fieldwork in Durban, South Africa, I illustrate the utility of this terminology for our analysis of policing.
ISSN:1461-7439
DOI:10.1177/1362480616680704