[Research seminar] LAWS in international law

06 May 2021
  • Starts at: 15:30h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: Online
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Instituut

On 6 May, the Asser Institute is proud to welcome Abhimanyu George Jain, PhD Candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Research Associate at the LAWS & War Crimes project. During this research seminar, he will be presenting his paper: ‘LAWS in international law’.

It is unclear what exactly lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) are, whether and how they might comply with international humanitarian law (IHL), and whether human control over and responsibility for their operations can be ensured. Despite these uncertainties, in a stunning display of circularity, the emerging international framework for regulating LAWS is structured around compliance with IHL and the maintenance of human control and responsibility. Acknowledging this dissonance between the emerging international regulatory framework and its hollow foundations draws attention to the work that is being done to bridge this dissonance.

In this paper I seek to identify and analyse two particular forms of bridging work. One is the discursive construction of LAWS in international law, where it is possible to identify strategies which contribute to constructing LAWS as objects of a particular kind of regulation. Another is the agency of the technology itself, which prioritises particular forms of expertise and privileges specific forms of warfare, and in this way shapes worldviews and limits human agency.

In analysing the bridging of the dissonance between regulatory consensus and its hollow foundations, my objective is not to highlight the contingency of the extant regulatory framework, but instead to analyse the falsity of this seeming contingency. This is why I have chosen to juxtapose linguistic (discursive) and material (technological) practices in this paper. To understand the process through which seemingly contingent human agency is oriented towards necessary outcomes, and to formulate effective strategies of resistance, it is necessary to acknowledge the structural constraints perpetuated by and ‘affordances’ allowed by the technology.

Asser research seminars

During the Asser Research Seminars, external researchers are invited to present their current and upcoming research with the Asser research community. The seminars are semi-open, as we invite a few external people who may be interested in the specific topic of the seminar. However, we aim to keep the group’s size limited, to stimulate interaction and high quality, in-depth discussions. Researchers who are interested in presenting their research to the Asser research community are welcome to send an e-mail to Dr Christophe Paulussen (c.paulussen@asser.nl).