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I am a Geography PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver…until at least spring 2017! My research interests are in war (broadly and historically conceived but always with an eye on the present); law (especially international law and critical legal studies) and the politics of the greater ‘Middle East’ (particularly the Palestine-Israel conflict and the ‘Arab uprising’). I’ll be teaching a course on the latter – The Geographies of the Middle East – at UBC in the fall semester of 2014. My PhD research is situated at the intersection of three broad bodies of literature: post-colonial theories of colonialism and international law (inter alia Samera Esmeir; Helen Kinsella; Antony Angie; Anne Orford; Costas Douzinas), including work on the ‘war/law/space nexus’ within and beyond legal geography; debates within political theory and political geography regarding bio/necro-politics, sovereign-power, and war (Judith Butler; Derek Gregory; Steven Graham; Eyal Weizman; Michael Dillon) and work on the concepts of the apparatus and the assemblage within and beyond geography (Foucault; Agamben; Ben Anderson et al.).
My PhD dissertation traffics in these areas and explores the putatively paradoxical spaces of war and law in the context of targeted killing conducted by the Israeli, U.S. and British Air Forces in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. The empirical crux of the research is about the figure of the military lawyer and the role that this figure plays in lethal targeting operations – the ‘lawyering-up of the kill chain’ – in those spaces just mentioned. But the military lawyer also stands in for my broader interest in the juridification of late modern war and in particular the way in which wars of the post-Kosovo and post-9/11 era are increasingly secured and fought through law (or what some call ‘lawfare’). So while my dissertation is focused on the techno-juridical practices of targeting, it is also an interrogation of the relationship between war and law, especially as that relationship has – and is – changing across both time and space.
More specifically, my research explores the involvement of military lawyers (also called ‘Judge Advocates’ or JA’s) in targeting operations and traces their ascendence from the rear-end of military affairs – tax law, divorce law, maintenance of discipline – to so-called ‘tip of the spear’ operations: the provision of live legal advice on lethal targeting operations and the deployment of lawyers in the theatre of war. I spent the last year (2013) or so conducting interviews with former and currently-serving military lawyers in the Military Advocate General (Israel), the Judge Advocate General (U.S Army), the Air Force JAG (U.S. Air Force) and the RAF Legal Branch (UK). As well as being a comparative (or rather, genealogical) study of legal advice in targeting operations, my dissertation is also a selected genealogy of targeted killing and I trace the origins of todays ‘drone wars’ (which are in fact more-than-drone-wars) to three (or four – I haven’t yet decided) crucial sites: the assassination campaigns ran by the CIA in the 1960s and 1970s in Central America; the joint CIA-U.S. military-Government of Vietnam assassination policy in Vietnam ( the ‘Phoenix program’, or Phung Hoang as it was known); the history of assassination conducted by the Israeli Secret Service (especially since the Munich Olympic games) and the British Military Reaction Force (MRF) undercover army unit in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
All of this for a PhD and you can view my ambitious proposal under the downloads tab, or here. The principle aim, however, is to write all of this into a book in the hope that more than my supervisory committee will read it! And seen as I mention the committee I should also point out how wonderful, smart and lovely they are: Derek Gregory (Peter Wall Institute/Geography UBC) is my academic supervisor and Jim Glassman (Geography, UBC), James Stuart (Faculty of Law, UBC) and Steven Graham (Architecture, Planning & Landscape, Newcastle) make up my Supervisory Committee.
I received a BA in Human Geography from the University of Manchester and the University of Melbourne and a MA (also in Geography) from UBC. My studies are funded by a Four-Year Fellowship.
[Update: It is probable that the UK/RAF component of my research will be shelved because the UK MoD has refused to participate in the study and has turned down multiple requests for interviews. The material I have on the UK, while significant, may not be sufficient to warrant its own ‘case study’, not least because for the other two sites – Israel and the U.S. – I have been able to secure access to their legal corps and have many interviews with military lawyers.]