Law Text Culture


The purpose of this essay is to trace the ongoing relevance of two cases, which might too readily be dismissed as irrelevant to contemporary border debates and asylum policy developments. The critical questions of sovereignty and hospitality that arose from Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992), High Court of Australia (‘Mabo’) and Ruddock v Vadarlis (2001), Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia (‘Tampa’) have lost none of their urgency or currency since the most profound questions of justice contained within them were cast as non-justiciable and so remain unresolved. The continued effacement of Aboriginal sovereignty and the refusal by the Australian state to provide refuge for asylum seekers continue to structure national and international spaces even as the legal issues of the cases are pronounced resolved and closed. In this essay, I argue that Mabo and Tampa continue to be worthy of attention since the developments in sovereignty undertaken in their name, continue to provide an unacknowledged precedent for contemporary border developments. I deploy Derrida’s work on law’s violence and hospitality in order to unpack the relations that hold between hospitality, law and violence.