Organized Panel Session
This panel explores the changing meanings of law and justice for everyday actors under democratic and authoritarian Asian states. Against the backdrop of extra-legal violence and disciplinary management of populations and territories, we interrogate the law as an ends of state power and a means for reclaiming justice. Our set of papers analyzes legal operations from an institutional level and their unintended effects in the domain of daily life. The case studies from China, Vietnam, and Kashmir illustrate the powerful frictions between the rule of law and rule by law. Our first paper distills how the Chinese state manipulates the law to circumvent international labor standards for global expansion. The predatory logic of state-capitalism lawfare has historical antecedents. During the Manchurian imperial competition of our second paper, local actors made use of juridical loopholes to thwart the territorial ambitions of rivaling empires. This Janus-face account of promiscuous legal instrumentality highlights the flexible space between de facto practices and de jure rules. Our third and fourth papers examine the ways in which citizens turn law into praxis through grassroots efforts that contest the lawlessness of the state. In Vietnam artists engage in subversive performances to demand legal protection for the environment. Elsewhere in Kashmir, a citizens’ movement challenges an emergency act that terrorizes local residents. Together our comparative lens reveals the many faces of the law – as policy weapon, transnational lawfare, dangerous play, and social action – that shape new conceptions of justice and society in the Global South.