The legal geographies of war and violence

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The International Conference of Critical Geography in Ramallah next July has extended its deadline for submissions to December 20th (info here). This is an important conference, especially because of its location in Palestine. As the conference organisers note:

The choice of Palestine to host the forthcoming edition is not trivial. Palestine is a rich context for geographers and others to observe first hand, learn about, and engage with the human, political and economic geographies resulting from more than a century of European settler colonialism and US imperialism. Yet Palestine is much more than the ‘object’ of imperial, colonial and capitalist ‘forces’. It is a place that stands at the heart of the recent Arab uprisings as an inspiration to the popular struggles that have profoundly shaken the Arab World and beyond in ways yet difficult to anticipate.

Can geographers join Sweden (and now France) in recognizing the state of Palestine and its educational institutions? Or will we boycott it because (as many German geographers seem to think) it is somehow too political to go to Palestine (but not too political to go to Israel)? Or will Palestine simply be too far – physically and imaginatively – for Geographers in Europe and North America? Too inconvenient and too expensive to attend, or simply too much hassle? I hope not, and in the spirit of the conference and in solidarity with the people of Palestine, colleague Lisa Bhungalia and I are soliciting papers for a session on what we are calling the ‘legal geographies of war and violence’. The CFP is below. We’d love to hear from you.

The legal geographies of war and violence

 In his review of the legal geography literature David Delaney recently made a simple though frequently overlooked point: “there is nothing in the world of spaces, places, landscapes, and environments that is not affected by the workings of law”. Yet, with some notable exceptions, critical legal geography has not considered spaces of war as spaces that are defined by – and made through – law.

But law constantly intervenes in and gives shape to war. For example, international law articulates the ‘right’ to go to war and defines the contours of what shall count as legitimate ‘self defence’. In seeking Congressional authorization of the US war against the Islamic State in November 2014, President Obama was seeking a legal basis for military action, one presumably more broad-based and deliberative than the Executive fiat he used to justify bombing targets in Iraq and Syria only four months earlier. And it is not just international and domestic law that animate war: there are several different kinds of international law –international humanitarian law, international criminal law, human rights law – just as there are plural domestic interpretations of international law. On top of these shifting ‘jurisdictions’ (Valverde) are overlaid operational law (OPSLAW), Rules of Engagement (ROE), military justice, and fiscal and contract law, giving rise to rich and complicated cartographies of law and war. War, it turns out, is shot through with law.

The last decade and a half has witnessed a renewed interest in the idea of war as a juridical operation. “Warfare”, writes critical legal scholar David Kennedy “has become a modern legal institution.” Similarly, Eyal Weizman has written of a ‘humanitarian present’ animated in large part by the warp and weft of war and law. Meanwhile, Derek Gregory has insisted that we read the wars conducted in the shadow of 9/11 – the constellation of wars that seem to be generating the contemporary interest in war and law – not only as a war on law (and specifically international law) but also as a warconducted through law. Central to these accounts has been the (re)assertion that war, violence and law are not separate or oppositional spheres, but rather animate one another in all kinds of ways. And yet we think that contemporary critiques oflaw, war and violence are yet to fully engage with long-standing philosophical critiques of law (Carl Schmitt; Walter Benjamin; Michael Foucault; Robert Cover; Jacques Derrida; Giorgio Agamben among many others) and from CriticalLegal Studies (CLS), Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and colonial law studies. We therefore particularly welcome papers that use radical approaches to law to understand the histories and geographies of war and violence.

We invite papers, both theoretical and empirical, that speak to the relationship between war, law and violence. In particular, we encourage papers that deal, indirectly or directly, with one or some of the following themes and questions:

  • Corporeality: (legal) bodies as vector and victim of violence and site of protest;
  • Lawfare;
  • Law and ‘terrorism’;
  • Mapping war and law
  • What is the relation between war, law and violence and how has this relation changed across space and time?
  • What and which kinds of wars and acts of violence are conducted through a language of law and which are not?
  • What is the relationship between colonialism both past and present and law?
  • What would a legal geography of war look like?
  • What methodologies can assist us in mapping and understanding the legal geographies of war?
  • What are the effects of the judicialization of war and the battlespace? Who gains and who loses when war is conducted through law?
  • What scales of law animate war? How do these intersect, overlap or contradict one another?

Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words to Craig Jones ( and Lisa Bhungalia ( by December 15th 2014. If you could contact us before this with an intent to apply this would be very helpful.

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