Jothie Rajah
IFK_Senior Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. March 2020 bis 30. June 2020

Jothie Rajah


Seeing Law: Authority and Legitimacy in a Post-9/11 World


In May 2011, Osama bin Laden’s extraterritorial, extrajudicial killing was celebrated by the US as the legitimate realization of justice. Echoing these events, in October 2019, the killing of the leader of ISIS was similarly celebrated. What does the disregard for law’s conventional sites and processes, (courts, trials), and law’s conventional actors, (lawyers, judges), tell us about dynamics of translation shaping law today? Seeing Law illuminates the work of translation bridging liberal legality’s traditions, and the post-9/11 cultural climate. For those of us who are globalized, mediatized, spectator-consumer-subjects, the post-9/11 cultural climate is marked by the ascendance of official, public expressions of fear and anger, in tandem with the increasing militarization and dominance of visual culture. In contrast to this cultural environment, law traditionally bestows authority upon words and rationality. How then are we to undertake the task of reading for law in its contemporary forms? Yoking the empirical and the theoretical, Seeing Law analyses paradigmatic ways in which law is represented today across legal, policy, and cultural texts.


Jothie Rajah studies the intersections of law, language and power, attending to translations effected between power interests and law through the medium of language. She is especially interested in the role of images, words, and affect in translating narratives of legitimacy and authority that justify de-democratizing, dehumanizing effects.


“Law, Politics, and Populism in the USA PATRIOT Act,” in: Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 26:1, 2019, p. 61-86; “A Minor Jurisprudence of Spectacular War: Law as Eye in the Sky,” in: Law Text Culture 21, 2017, p. 252-275; “Law as Record,” in: No Foundations 13, 2016, p. 45-69; “Sinister Translations: Law’s Authority in a Post-9/11 World,” in: Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 21, 2014, p. 107-143; “Language-and-Law Scholarship: An Interdisciplinary Conversation and a Post-9/11 Example,” in: Annual Review of Law and Social Science 10, 2014, p. 169-183 (with E Mertz).

  • Lecture
IFK @Zoom

On 27 October 2019, President Trump announced that US Special Forces had killed the leader of ISIS. What does this killing – an extraterritorial, extrajudicial assassination – mean for law? This lecture argues that events like this killing effect a translation of liberal legality into necropolitical law.

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