De-positioning sovereignty : law at the limits of the political
Sovereignty is regularly characterised in juridico-philosophical discourse as an illimitable power 'beyond law'. It is territorialized, equated with the nation-state, delimited in space and time, and thus regarded as having a finite presence as the symbol of a particular 'political community'. Sovereignty is also treated as an infinite power which transcends juridical limits. The central thesis developed here is that sovereignty is at once finite and infinite (in-finite). The objective of this thesis is to elaborate this ambivalent 'position' of sovereignty in relation to law. The thesis seeks to 'de-position' monistic conceptions of sovereignty through a critical examination of the delimited and illimitable presence, the in-finitude, of sovereignty. The opening concern of the thesis, then, is to identify the in-finitude of sovereignty in the telling instance of Australian 'postcoloniaP law. In Australia, an imperial sovereign assertion which treated the continent's indigenous people as barbarous and without a 'settled law' needed to be rendered 'finite' - that is, delimited - so that this sovereign excess could be disavowed in the process of inaugurating a 'postcolonial' law and society. A 'finite' sovereign event that took place 'back then' was central to re-presenting the juridical order as 'post-racist' and 'postcolonial'. However, the imperial sovereign 'event' also needed to be preserved as the 'infinite' ground of present and future law and society. Sovereignty is thus imbued with a 'finite' and 'infinite' quality in the 'postcolonial' context. The question which then arises is how the contradictory lineaments of in-finite (finite and infinite) sovereignty are sustained.