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International law is already otherwise

Digital interfaces of relation and the politics of 'innovation' in humanitarian practice

Add to calendar 2024-04-03 17:00 2024-04-03 18:30 Europe/Rome International law is already otherwise Refectory Badia Fiesolana YYYY-MM-DD


03 April 2024

17:00 - 18:30 CEST



Badia Fiesolana

Max Weber Programme April Lecture with Fleur Johns (UNSW Sydney).

This lecture will examine the growing recourse by governments, international organizations, NGOs, and multinational corporations to digital technology in the humanitarian field – and its potential ramifications for international law and politics. It will survey some ways in which digital technology, data science, and artificial intelligence are being incorporated into international humanitarian work and argue that this incursion of the digital into the international humanitarian field is both expressive and productive of a break in the kinds of governance arrangements that international lawyers are accustomed to navigating. Recourse to digital technology in the humanitarian field is not just giving international legal and humanitarian professionals access to new data, new knowledge, and new analytic and surveillant capacities. It is reconfiguring what is and can be known, perceived, and claimed in the international humanitarian field, and international law is both facilitating this transformation and somewhat mangled by it. There are, of course, still many continuities apparent in international humanitarian work with what has come before and what has been done before, for good and for ill. But digital technology both combines with and calls into question certain analogue logics characteristic of law, legal practice, and legal institutions in this field. And with attention to, or insistence on, that break, it becomes possible to say that international law is and can be something other than a continuous evolution from, or inevitable reaction to, what has come before – and that its transformation is open to wide-ranging engagement, one might even say democratic engagement, notwithstanding all the ways in which it intersects with global hierarchy, domination, and violence.

About the speaker: 

Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law & Justice at UNSW Sydney. Fleur works in international law, legal theory, law and development, and law and technology. Her latest research has focused on the implications of digital technology for international law and politics, and on the international law of diplomacy. Fleur is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2021-2025) and a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (2021-2024). She has published five books, the most recent of which is #Help: Digital Humanitarianism and the Remaking of International Order (Oxford University Press, 2023). Fleur has held visiting appointments in Canada, Europe, the UK, and the US and currently serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of International Law and the journals Technology and Regulation, the Journal of Cross-disciplinary Research in Computational Law, and Science, Technology & Human Values, as well as being an Advisory Editor for the London Review of International Law, the Australian Feminist Law Journal and several scholarly book series. Fleur is a graduate of Melbourne University (BA, LLB(Hons)) and Harvard University (LLM, SJD; Menzies Scholar; Laylin Prize). Prior to entering academia, Fleur practised law in New York.


Fleur Johns (UNSW Sydney)

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