Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 October 2015
This article evaluates the benefits of a ‘turn to narration’ in international legal scholarship. It argues that significant attention should be paid to the narrators who employ international law as a vocabulary to further their professional projects. Theories of unreliable narration help map consensus within international law's interpretive community in a manner that is acutely sensitive to point of view and perspective. The article examines the existence and extent of unreliable narration through a case study: the practice of targeted killing by the Obama administration in the United States. The struggle for control of the narrative, by narrators with different professional roles and cognitive frames, is ultimately a struggle for interpretive power, with the resulting ability to ‘kill or capture’ divergent narrative visions. Unreliable narration offers a critical heuristic for assessing how narratives are generated, sustained, and called into question in international law, while fostering reflexive inquiry about international law as a professional discipline.
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210 Luban, D., ‘Military Necessity and the Cultures of Military Law’, (2013) 26 (2)LJIL 315CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 315: ‘For military lawyers, the starting point is military necessity, and the reigning assumption is that legal regulation of war must accommodate military necessity. For humanitarian lawyers, the starting point is human dignity and human rights. The result is two interpretive communities that systematically disagree not only over the meaning of particular law-of-war norms, but also over the sources and methods of law that could be used to resolve the disagreements.’
212 M. Mazzetti, C. Savage, and S. Shane, ‘How a US Citizen Came to Be in America's Cross Hairs’, New York Times (9 March 2013).
217 On the concerning normalization of targeted killing as a state practice, see J. Waldron, ‘Death Squads and Death Lists: Targeted Killing and the Character of the State’ (presentation at Ethics in War conference, West Point, 27 March 2015).
218 Sennett in P. Brooks (ed.), The Humanities and Public Life (2014), at 102.
219 Kennedy, D., ‘The Hermeneutic of Suspicion in Contemporary American Legal Thought’, (2014) 25 Law Critique 91CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On ideology, see Herman and Vervaeck, supra note 10; Marks, S., ‘Big Brother is Bleeping Us – With the Message That Ideology Doesn't Matter’, (2001) 12 EJIL 109CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Olesen, J., ‘Towards a Politics of Hermeneutics’, in Bianchi, A., Peat, D., and Windsor, M. (eds.), Interpretation in International Law (2015), at 311–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
221 See F. Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1982).
222 J. Butler, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2010), at 9.
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