Legal Envelopment: Atmospheres of Law in Colonial British Columbia

12:30, Saturday 8 May 2021 (30 minutes)
Break    01:00 PM to 01:30 PM (30 minutes)

Matthew Unger, Legal Envelopment: Atmospheres of Law in Colonial British Columbia, Concordia University, Canada

Drawing from recent literature on atmospheres as affective, sensory and meaning-making spatio-temporal experiences, this article examines a case from the legal archives of British Columbia to understand legal envelopment as lawmakers sought to extend law’s reach further into Indigenous communities and territories. While legal atmospheres and other spatial legal concepts take for granted the omnipresence of law, by digging genealogically into how legal envelopment occurred in colonial British Columbia I work towards a de-reification of the law as forgetful of its own origins and ruptures. The Skeena River uprising of 1888 discloses the way early Canadian legal development relied upon affective, sensory, and theatrical acts of misrecognition and violence to seize jurisdiction and, more pointedly, to mobilize images of sovereignty to bolster local, contingent and contextual forms of authority. In the end, my argument aims to contribute to an understanding of the various tactics, discourses, and inscriptions which comprise a Colonial Canadian legal imaginary that sought to envelope the differing peoples, landscapes, and topographies of British Columbia into a single normative and affective legal atmosphere.

Concordia - CSS
Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology