Affective Justice

The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Pushback

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 7 illustrations Published: November 2019

African Studies, Anthropology, Law > Legal Theory

Since its inception in 2001, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been met with resistance by various African states and their leaders, who see the court as a new iteration of colonial violence and control. In Affective Justice Kamari Maxine Clarke explores the African Union's pushback against the ICC in order to theorize affect's role in shaping forms of justice in the contemporary period. Drawing on fieldwork in The Hague, the African Union in Addis Ababa, sites of postelection violence in Kenya, and Boko Haram's circuits in Northern Nigeria, Clarke formulates the concept of affective justice—an emotional response to competing interpretations of justice—to trace how affect becomes manifest in judicial practices. By detailing the effects of the ICC’s all-African indictments, she outlines how affective responses to these call into question the "objectivity" of the ICC’s mission to protect those victimized by violence and prosecute perpetrators of those crimes. In analyzing the effects of such cases, Clarke provides a fuller theorization of how people articulate what justice is and the mechanisms through which they do so.


“At its creation, many African countries embraced the International Criminal Court, but subsequent events produced substantial African opposition. This important and insightful book, based on extensive ethnographic research, explores the court and how Africans feel about it. Some see the International Criminal Court as a beacon of hope while others see it as a legacy of colonialism. The book focuses on how affects such as a desire for justice through law and the anger at the plunder of resources shape international justice itself.” — Sally Engle Merry, Silver Professor, New York University

Affective Justice is set against the background of worldwide disappointments in the performance of the International Criminal Court arising from its prosecutorial incongruences. Kamari Maxine Clarke offers a phenomenology of justice and an anthropology of judicial practices as negotiated assemblages of sentiments of participants of unequal power, judicial competence, and material means as foundations of the institutions of justice. The book captures the complexity of evolving African attitudes toward the ICC like no book before it. A must-read for anyone interested in the future of international justice!” — Siba N'Zatioula Grovogui, Cornell University

"Kamari Maxine Clarke’s superb ethnographic and critical study of the place of the International Criminal Court (ICC) within African history and politics demands a fundamental reevaluation of the meaning of “justice” against a background of colonial and neocolonial violence, postcolonial critique, and enduring inequalities of international power." — Mark Goodale, Opinio Juris

“In Affective Justice, Clarke innovatively explores the making of international criminal justice from the standpoint of affects and emotions and, in doing so, offers an unprecedented and indispensable theorization of international criminal justice which—after reading this book—can simply not be ignored any longer.” — Caroline Fournet, Law & Society Review

“Through an ethnographic interrogation of the predicament of identifying and reacting to acts of injustice in Africa (at different levels) and the politics of law, Clarke has provided a compelling read…. This book is strongly recommended to technocrats in the ICC itself and to academics and policy makers in Africa and the rest of the world.” — Tapiwa Victor Warikandwa, Anthropology Southern Africa


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kamari Maxine Clarke is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of Mapping Yorùbá Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities, also published by Duke University Press, and Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Preface. Assemblages of Interconnection  xvii
Introduction. Formation, Dislocations, and Unravelings  1
Part I. Component Parks of the International Criminal Law Assemblage  47
1. Genealogies of Anti-impunity: Encapsulating Victims and Perpetrators  49
2. Founding Moments? Shaping Publics through Sentimental Narratives  91
3. Biomediation and the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign: Making Suffering Visible  116
4. From "Perpetrator" to Hero: Renarrating Culpability through Reattribution  140
Part II. Affects, Emotional Regimes, and the Reattribution of International Law  175
5. Reattribution through the Making of an African Criminal Court  177
6. Reattributing the Irrelevance of the Official Capacity Movement as an Affective Practice  217
Epilogue. Toward an Anthropology of International Justice  257
Notes  267
Bibliography  309
Index  337
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, 2020 Elliott P. Skinner Book Award, presented by the Association for Africanist Anthropology

Winner, Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology, presented by the Royal Anthropological Institute (UK)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0670-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0575-9
Funding Information This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) – a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries – and the generous support of Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and the UCLA Library. Learn more at the TOME website, available at: