“Detectible Me: International Legal Appetites and the Political Economy of Sense”
Public Lecture by Prof. Fleur Johns (UNSW, Sydney), June 18, 2018
As a discipline, international law maintains certain sensory appetites. International legal institutions, doctrines and professionals tend to work to make some conditions, phenomena and possibilities detectible on a global scale, while working against the detection of others. These sensory appetites are changing. International institutions, governments and non-governmental organisations are, for example, making increasing use of real-time information, or seeking to do so, for politico-legal decision-making on the global plane. The register in which they are doing so, moreover, is not confined to that of crisis or emergency. Many recurrent or intractable problems are being tackled through the piecing and patching together of real-time or (near-real-time) data from a wide range of sources, via many different routes and methods. New actors are also coming to the fore as key players in international legal order, among them data brokers and exchanges. Some forms of infrastructure and regulatory techniques appear to be of growing importance, while others seem to be declining in significance. This talk will present some preliminary maps of the political economy of detection and non-detection that is emerging on the global plane amid these and cognate changes – a global political economy of sense. It will explore, too, some of the questions and dilemmas to which this gives rise, for international law and policy and those publics whom the discipline purports to benefit.
Fleur Johns is a Professor of International Law at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She works in the areas of public international law and legal theory. She studies patterns of governance on the global plane, employing an interdisciplinary approach that draws on the social sciences and humanities and combines the study of public and private law. In recent years, her work has focused on the role of automation in global legal relations, building on her prior research on financial modeling and other non-legal techniques of governance. She is currently working on a three year, collaborative, Australian Research Council-funded project entitled 'Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges'. Fleur Johns is the author of Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law (Cambridge, 2013) and The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development (co-authored with Ben Boer, Philip Hirsch, Ben Saul & Natalia Scurrah, Routledge 2016). She is also editor of two further books: Events: The Force of International Law (Routledge-Cavendish, 2011; co-edited with Richard Joyce and Sundhya Pahuja); and International Legal Personality (Ashgate, 2010); as well as having authored articles in journals in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.