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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.20

Exceptional Statehood? The British Crown and the Question of Sovereign Power


  • Dr. Cris SHORE

Primary authors


Anthropologists and social scientists often emphasise the fact that the ‘state of exception’, as developed in the work of Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben, is far from exceptional, nor is it a singular technique of government. Governments increasingly implement policies that, while ‘exceptional’, are entirely consistent with laws or constitutions. In this paper I question the idea of states of exception as ‘legally sanctioned lawlessness’ or a suspension of the rules and norms that ordinarily govern legal conduct. I ask, how do government subvert their own legal norms? My focus is on the work of the Crown in the UK constitution and that of other countries whose political systems are based on the Westminster model of constitutional monarchy. The concept of ‘Royal prerogative’ may seem like an ancient relic from a bygone medieval era yet it continues to play a central role in the government of the UK, not least in controversial decisions such as declaring war or the triggering of article 50 and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Beyond the UK I also want to reflect on how ‘Crown dependencies’ such as the Chagos Islands, reflect how sovereign power create ongoing states of exception, and the conundrums that these produce.