The main intervention of this special section is to identify and reposition race and colonial law as (conspicuously) absent referents in widely accepted genealogies of the state of exception—most notably, that of Giorgio Agamben—and to offer methodological pathways, based on historical and contemporary examples, of how colonial legal histories might be “written back” into this history. Collectively, these essays attempt to show how race thinking and exception each operate as the other's alibi: exception instantiating and substantiating race difference, and race difference justifying exception and ushering its expansion and normalization in steadily more realms of law and life. In so doing, this special section proposes at least three possible avenues of further inquiry, each of which builds on and into the other: First, by virtue of their geographic and temporal scope, these essays signal a way of approaching sovereignty and exception not as totalizing and synthetic, but rather as multivalent, recursive, and regenerative. Second, the designation of “partial personhood” or “disabled citizenship” is offered as a way of conceptually traversing trans-Mediterranean and trans-Atlantic historical experiences and legal traditions. Third, these essays signal the need for more sustained exploration at the nexus of law, labor, and violence.

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