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Sharma, Kanika (2022) 'Colonial courts, judicial iconography and the Indian semiotic register.' Law and Humanities, 16 (2). pp. 331-336.

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In From the Colonial to the Contemporary: Images, Iconography, Memories, and Performances of Law in India's High Courts, Rahela Khorakiwala brings together germinal works on the uses of architecture and iconology in and by law with thick descriptions and a close study of the semiotics and symbolisms of the three colonial High Courts (HCs) in Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras (now Chennai). This visual analysis of the court site is integral to understanding how the law operates and how the state wishes the public to perceive the law. Khorakiwala weaves through her engaging examination of the legal aesthetics of the courts an examination of them as sites of memory and memorialization and the role that they play in preserving colonial history in a post-colonial state. She helps us understand how these colonial HCs act as sites of contestation upon which newer anti-colonial and postcolonial memories and ideals can be layered to reflect the complex history of the site. However, the book is most interesting when Khorakiwala attempts to scrutinise the ways in which legal symbolism drawn from the local semiotic register is overlaid over Western and colonial legal iconology that dominate the Indian courts. While doing so she gently leads us to the question that pervades the book but remains ultimately unanswered – Is there a unique Indian judicial iconography that can be recognized and deciphered?

Item Type: Book Reviews
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS South Asia Institute
School Research Centres > Centre for Asian Legal Studies
Departments and Subunits > School of Law
ISSN: 17521483
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2022 13:47

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