Archiving Sovereignty – Research Seminar with Dr. Stewart Motha, Birkbeck Law School, University of London



Tuesday 2nd December, 2014 Room 920, 9/F Cheng Yu Tung Tower, 3pm-6pm


3pm-4.30pm Session 1: “As if – Archiving Sovereignty”

4.30pm-5pm Break: Tea and coffee will be served in the Alumni Reading Room, 9/F

5pm-6pm Session 2: “The Beast, The Academy, The Sovereign”

Chair:         Professor Scott Veitch, HKU Faculty of Law


Dr. Stewart Motha is Reader in Law, and Deputy Dean, Birkbeck Law School, University of London. He is an internationally recognized authority in the field of sovereignty – with extensive research in UK, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Canada, and the USA.

Dr. Motha is currently working on a monograph, Archiving Sovereignty (forthcoming with Michigan University Press). This book arises out of research into how law functions as an archive of sovereign violence. The book also offers an elaboration of the ‘as if’ (the consciously false, or fiction) at the heart of modern law. Reworking the notion of the ‘archive’, the book addresses the sovereign event in Australia, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean region as a problem of law’s capacity to retain and disavow sovereign violence at the same time. This memorial function of law is elaborated through juridical case studies, and literary and other artistic works.

This seminar offers an opportunity to engage with themes developed in Dr. Motha’s book project. In the first session Dr. Motha will present an outline of his project which will be followed by discussion; a draft introductory chapter is available to read in advance. In the second session Dr Motha will put the emerging themes into conversation with two other texts: Jacques Derrida’s “11th Seminar” from his posthumously published collection The Beast and the Sovereign and Franz Kafka’s short story, “A Report to an Academy”. The three texts are available for reading ahead of the seminar.

RSVP to Daniel Matthews ( if you planning to attend in order to receive an electronic copy of the three texts.

This seminar is part of the HKU emerging strategic research theme in Law, Literature, Language.

“Law as Living Language” Colloquium at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Harvard University

This brought together many of the leading scholars of language and law in the United States. The workshop papers are now being organized as a volume, under contract with CUP, to be titled Language, Power and Law: the Invisible Exercise of Power through Language. It will be published in or before 2016, edited by Dr Leung, and with papers from three members of the eSRT.