In this essay, I offer a reading of recent antiterrorism legislation in the United Kingdom that draws away from a more traditional understanding of emergency as a response to a specific crisis, such as an attack or invasion, through the temporary suspension of rights for the sake of restoring public order. Instead, I draw attention to the structural shifts in governance that these laws represent, and to their intensely bureaucratic nature—to classifications and special commissions, to the inchoate determinations of danger and the large and precise powers that such determinations trigger. I illuminate these current legal developments in Britain by reaching back into Britain's own colonial past. The innovations and enduring legacies of a colonial governmentality, I suggest, offer a valuable resource for understanding the larger significance of specific antiterrorism legislations.

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