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Book Chapter

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postmodernism and deconstruction, politics and ethics


In this essay, I attempt to consider the juridical significance of the Irish hunger strike of 1981. I focus on this almost unreal, but tragically too real, 'event' for two reasons. First, on the basis of the rereading or representation that I offer in this essay, the hunger strike provides an opportunity to reflect upon what is perhaps the most enduring and intractable question of social theory: the relationship between structure and agency. Specifically, it enables us to critically interrogate the aspirations and assumptions of a colonial legal structure and the agentic resistance of the juridically colonized. The second reason for my interest is more personal. As I was a law student in Belfast at the time, the strike has been a key aspect of my formative context and thus a constitutive part of my identity. In particular, by bringing into sharp relief the relationship between law, domination, violence, and death, the hunger strike has turned out to be a (not always conscious but pervasive) back-drop against which I have constructed both my political philosophy and my jurisprudence.