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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Under what conditions does a state of “armed neutrality” mutate from being a precarious, contingent balance of forces into becoming the foundation of a society’s moral law and order? In his revolutionary interwar treatise Annihilation of Caste, moral philosopher and constitutional theorist Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) deploys the term armed neutrality to excavate a vacillating border that cuts across generations and epistemologies, running like a self-lacerating stasis inscribed on the logic of time itself. Often in his later works, Ambedkar organizes his critique of this disciplinary truce, this spiritual “mechanism” of an armistice without amnesty—in Indian parlance, maryada or “sanction”—under the French phrase cordon sanitaire. This chapter argues that at the heart of his cosmopolitical experiments with juridical untranslatables lies Ambedkar’s rigorous “archaeology” of political cruelty. It then explores the topography of democratic judgment and nonsovereignty that emerges from Ambedkar’s archaeology, or, as he calls it, “paleontology” of epistemic militarism. Fundamental to Ambedkar’s political thought is not only a critique of temporal reason—the sacrificial cast of time—that defines stasis in its classical sense, but also a theory of the partisan whose action embodies, in its dynamic potentiality, a force without sovereignty, freedom without mastery.

Keywords: Ambedkar, border, cruelty, law, sanction, militarism, majesty, amnesty, freedom, judgment

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