Awor nan ta yama nos criminal! (and now they can call us criminals!)

Jacquelien Rothfusz

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In this article, the author will question the seemingly obvious boundary between civil disobedience, as conceptualised by Rawls and Arendt, and several examples of criminal, or simply annoying, activities which don't meet their criteria, such as the case of the ‘Top 50'. The ‘Top 50' are multi-problem Dutch-Caribbean men, who refuse to adapt to predominant norms in Dutch society. IThe author argues that political aspects of their behaviour should be acknowledged, even if they engage in criminal behaviour and don't present explicit political goals. Firstly, she questions the way in which Rawls based his definition on a centralistic conception of governmental power and contrast it with Foucault's conception of normalising power, in which power is diffuse and cannot be restricted to the enactment of formal laws. Secondly, she discusses what the minimum requirements are to be able to classifyacts as civil disobedience. Rawls and Arendt draw a clear line between criminal behaviour and civil disobedience, but their requirements may be too strict. We might miss signals of injustice if actions that do not meet these criteria are excluded from the political discourse. The conclusion is that comparing Arendt's and Rawls' conception of civil disobedience with the behaviour of a marginal migrant group may be useful in questioning the boundaries of this concept and in making it more inclusive. A wider conception of civil disobedience may help to explain the meaning of deviant behaviour in terms of social critique and to challenge the traditional understanding of civil disobedience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-26
JournalKrisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • civil disobedience
  • criminal behaviour
  • antilleans


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  • 6th CAPPE annual conference 2011

    Jacquelien Rothfusz (Speaker)

    31 Aug 2011

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

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