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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Spectacles and Specters: A Performative Theory of Political Trial

Book: Spectacles and Specters: A Performative Theory of Political Trials
Written by: Basak Ertur
Published by: Fordham University Press, 2022

The book: Spectacles and Spectres: A Performative Theory on Political Trials by legal scholar Basak Ertur wh draws on theories of performativity to conceptualise the entanglements of law and political violence. Ertur argues that “making sense of the politics of a trial requires a shift of focus, or rather, a readjustment of our frame so that the focal point is no longer law’s instrumentality but instead its performativity” (p. 1).

The book comprises two parts, each consisting of three chapters. Part One encompasses ‘Theorizing Political Trials,’ The Form and Substance of Doing Justice,’ and ‘Sovereign Infelicities.’

The author introduces a theory of political trials through a reconstruction of the intellectual discourse surrounding Nuremberg. Engaging with theories of performativity such as Austin’s concept of speech act, Derrida’s work on the force of law authority and Butlers’ work on performativity, this exploration begins by revisiting a significant period of theoretical innovation in the early 1960s by Otto Kirchheimer, Hannah Arendt, and Judith Sheklar. In Part Two Ertur offers original case studies that introduce a new perspective by looking beyond the Holocaust trials, to the Armenian genocide and its fragmentary legal aftermaths. These cases include the 1921 trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, the 2007-21 Hrant Dink Murder Trial, and the 2015 case before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the denial of the Armenian genocide.

“The suggestion that performativity can explain not only how legal language works but also how law works is perhaps an obvious point for legal scholars who propose that we must study law ‘as’ language” (p.5).

Spectacles and Specters