This paper explores the role of cinematic representations of lawfare in shaping and disseminating the jurisdiction of humanitarian law (IHL) through advanced military technologies and data practices. Taking the 2015 British thriller ‘Eye in the Sky’ as an instance of a dominant representation of lawfare, I analyse how this representation strengthens and reaffirms misconceptions about IHL and the bureaucracy of killing. As a popular culture product – and one that is embraced by various IHL experts and organisations – ‘Eye in the Sky’ participates in the ethical, legal, and political debates about advanced military technologies, and establishes mundane data practices as a system of knowledge production through which IHL exercises its jurisdiction over facts, people, and spaces. In particular, the paper analyses how ‘Eye in the Sky’s representations of IHL’s data practices strengthen and reinforce a particular IHL narrative, which is consistent with Western countries’ narrative about their existing counterterrorism practices and their bureaucracy of killing. Based on studies from law, sociology, and communication, this paper answers the following three questions: (i) who is given the power to speak IHL (and who is not)? (ii) To whom is IHL speaking? And (iii) how do data practices shape IHL’s jurisdiction? The paper concludes that ‘Eye in the Sky’ speaks international law through the voices of drone-owning nations, and is directed to their mass publics, legitimising the existing bureaucracy of killing. At the same time, it disguises normative choices as inevitable, and erases African decision-makers, communities, and perspectives.
This event is part of a new, year-long Ethics & Political Violence series. The series of seminars and public lectures features philosophers, lawyers, historians, social scientists, human rights activists, soldiers and political leaders grappling with vexing moral questions raised by uses of violence in international relations and domestic politics.
About the Speaker: Shiri Krebs is an Associate Professor at Deakin University’s Law School, and Co-lead, Law and Policy Theme, at the Australian Government Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC). She is also an affiliated scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and cooperation (CISAC).
Dr Krebs’ research focuses on wartime controversies and fact-finding processes, as well as on human-machine interaction in legal decision-making, exploring issues at the intersection of law, science and technology.
Her scholarship has been published at leading international law and general law journals (e.g. the Harvard National Security Journal), and has been supported by a number of research grants, including, most recently, from the Australian Government Cyber Security Cooperative research Centre. Dr Krebs was invited to communicate her research findings to government departments, security agencies, and civil society organizations in various countries, and her work has affected data collection processes.
Her publications granted her several awards, including the Vice-Chancellor’s Early Career Researcher Award for Career Excellence (Deakin University, 2019), the Lucinda Jordan Research Award (2018), invitation to the 2016 American Society of International Law (ASIL) ‘New Voices’ panel, the Franklin Award in International Law (Stanford University, 2015), the Goldsmith Award in Dispute Resolution (2012), and the Steven Block Civil Liberties Award (2011). Dr Krebs has taught in a number of law schools, including at Stanford University, University of Santa Clara, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she won the Dean’s award recognizing exceptional junior faculty members. Krebs earned her Doctorate and Master Degrees from Stanford Law School with Honours, as well as LL.B. and M.A., both magna cum laude, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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