The 2016 film, Eye in the Sky (Eye), features contestation among lawyers, politicians, and military personnel as to law’s values, meanings, and consequences. In other words, Eye is animated by jurisprudence. As jurisprudence, Eye represents contemporary drone warfare as a highly regulated legal system structured around an ethical valuing of civilian life. Given that drone warfare is known yet secret, by rendering drone warfare vivid and visible, what legal system does Eye construct, which jurisprudential questions are asked, and which are occluded? Drawing on scholarship theorizing contemporary visual culture in relation to war, this paper argues that Eye dazzles us with technology, and an acute questioning of law, to distract us from first, concealments and erasures accompanying drone warfare, and second, a legitimation of the controversial international law principle, responsibility to protect. In the process, by rendering visible a particular set of actors, narratives, and questions, while concealing and erasing others, Eye legitimises drone warfare and valorises its actors, institutions, practices, and technologies.
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Jothie Rajah is Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation, Chicago. She received her LL.B and BA from the National University in Singapore. Her Ph.D. was awarded by Melbourne Law School, Australia. Broadly speaking, her scholarship attends to the enmeshments of law, language and power. She is the author of Authoritarian Rule of Law: Legislation, Discourse and Legitimacy in Singapore (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Her articles have been published in Law, Culture, and the Humanities; Law,Text,Culture; Law & Social Inquiry; the Annual Review of Law and Social Science (with Elizabeth Mertz); the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies; the Wisconsin International Law Journal (with Arun K. Thiruvengadam); and various book collections. Her current project is a study of post-9/11 discourses on the rule of law in relation to legislation, indicators measuring countries on their rule-of-law performances, and narratives and images in news and entertainment media.