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Representing Transnational Law: Drone Warfare and Transnational Legal Text

April 2021

Featured in The Oxford Handbook of Transnational Law (Oxford University Press) 

What can entertainment media tell us about a contemporary concept of law that is being transnationalized, and why should scholars pay attention to ostensibly fictional representations of law in transnational contexts? In this chapter, I consider representations of transnational law through an analysis of Gavin Hood’s 2016 film on drone warfare, Eye in the Sky (Eye). Eye is driven by a compelling narrative tension: a child is likely to be harmed if a missile is launched at a room occupied by terrorists loading suicide vests with explosives. But if this child is not risked (sacrificed?) and the terrorists conduct their suicide mission, a minimum of eighty civilian deaths is the probable result. With lives at stake, we watch a transnational alliance of American and British state actors debate law, the rules governing drone strikes, and accountability to publics, as the decision is made to conduct the targeted killing. Dramatizing questions of law in relation to the secretive workings of drone warfare, Eye offers a valuable representation of how a very specific account of law as security is being transnationalized.