1st Edition

Targeting in International Law Counterinsurgency and the Legal Materiality of the Principle of Distinction

By Amin Parsa Copyright 2024
    184 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is about how distinctions are drawn between civilians and combatants in modern warfare and how the legal principle of distinction depends on the technical means through which combatants make themselves visibly distinguishable from civilians.

    The author demonstrates that technologies of visualisation have always been part of the operation of the principle of distinction, arguing that the military uniform sustained the legal categories of civilian and combatant and actively set the boundaries of permissible and prohibited targeting, and so legal and illegal killing. Drawing upon insights from the theory of legal materiality, visual studies, critical fashion studies, and a dozen of military manuals he shows that far from being passive objects of regulation, these technologies help to draw the boundaries of the legitimate target.

    With its attention to the co-productive relationship between law, technologies of visualisation and legitimation of violence, this book will be relevant to a large community of researchers in international law, international relations, critical military studies, contemporary counterinsurgency operations and the sociology of law.

    1. Visibility, Materiality, and Targeting in Contemporary Counterinsurgency  2. Knowledge–Vision: The Making of a Legitimate Human Target  3. Military Uniform as a Technology of Visuality  4. Targeting in Counterinsurgency  5. From the Military Uniform to the Disposition Matrix: ‘If We Decide [Someone] is a Bad Person, The People With Him Are Also Bad’  6. Conclusion     


    Amin Parsa is an assistant professor in sociology of law at Halmstad University, Sweden, and an affiliate researcher of Sociology of Law Department at Lund University, Sweden. He holds a doctoral degree in public international law from Lund University. His primary research interest concerns the use of advanced digital technologies in the context of armed conflicts as well as border control practices.

    "A must-read for everyone interested in technologies of visualization and the laws of armed conflict. Parsa’s book provides an original and critical lens on one of the major challenges to the regulation of targeting in contemporary armed conflict.  The book is theoretically well grounded, legally solid and filled with relevant examples."

    Wouter G. Werner, Professor International Law, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands  

    "Targeting in International Law offers a compelling interdisciplinary account of what it means to see or be seen in contemporary armed conflict. The aerial perspective of the drone has led to new ways of distinguishing between civilians and targetable persons. Parsa elucidates the complex relationships between military technologies, international law, and the regimes of visibility and invisibility that drive contemporary targeting practices. Targeting in International Law is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand and critique how persons become targets in contemporary conflicts."

    Christiane Wilke, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University, Canada