Forthcoming in Antipode 49(5) this November,* and available online now, Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon’s “Distinction and the Ethics of Violence: On the Legal Construction of Liminal Subjects and Spaces” examines how militaries actually make distinctions in the battlefield, given that today most fighting takes place in urban settings where distinguishing between combatant and civilian is becoming increasingly difficult.
Their paper shows how liberal militaries are utilizing new technologies that aim to expand that which is perceptible within the fray. Combining the more traditional forms of making distinctions such as binoculars and cameras with cutting edge hi-tech, militaries subject big data to algorithmic analysis aimed at identifying certain behavioral patterns. The technologies of distinction function before, during, and after the fray not only in order to direct the fighting and to help produce the legal and ethical interpretation of hostilities, but also as a mechanism that identifies and at times creates new legal figures.
Focusing on two legal figures—“enemies killed in action” and “human shields”—Nicola and Neve show how technologies of distinction help justify killing civilians and targeting civilian spaces during war. Ultimately, they maintain that distinction, which is meant to guarantee the protection of civilians in the midst of armed conflict, actually helps hollow the notion of civilian through the production of new liminal legal figures that can be legitimately killed.
You can see Nicola and Neve discussing their paper below, follow them on Twitter @PeruginiNic and @nevegordon, and read more about their research and teaching at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, SOAS, University of London, and the University of Edinburgh.
*Volume 49, number 5 comes out in November 2017, and is shaping up nicely…
Enclosures from Below: The Mushaa’ in Contemporary Palestine – Noura Alkhalili
Counting Carbon: Calculative Activism and Slippery Infrastructure – Nicholas Beuret
Unconsented Sterilisation, Participatory Story-Telling, and Digital Counter-Memory in Peru – Matthew Brown and Karen Tucker
Race and the Pitfalls of Emotional Democracy: Primary Schools and the Critique of Black Pete in the Netherlands – Sébastien Chauvin and Yannick Coenders
Violent Inaction: The Necropolitical Experience of Refugees in Europe – Thom Davies, Arshad Isakjee and Surindar Dhesi
Trafficking in US Agriculture – Simón Pedro Izcara Palacios and Yasutaka Yamamoto
The Right to the World – Joseph Nevins
Strata of the Political: Epigenetic and Microbial Imaginaries in Post-Apartheid Cape Town – Michelle Pentecost and Thomas Cousins
Distinction and the Ethics of Violence: On the Legal Construction of Liminal Subjects and Spaces – Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon
Amplifying Environmental Politics: Ocean Noise – Max Ritts