Hunting the 'Out-of-Place Muslim': Sketching the Juridical Architecture of America's 'War on Terror'
A lecture by Darryl Li, Harvard University
Much of the legal scholarship on the U.S.-led "Global War on Terror" (GWOT) takes for granted prevailing categories, be they domestic (constitutional law, immigration law, criminal law) or international (human rights, armed conflict). But another question has been insufficiently addressed: what makes GWOT different from other states' campaigns against 'terrorism'? This presentation highlights one key distinguishing feature of GWOT, namely a preoccupation with extraterritorial surveillance and control over transnational Muslim populations, especially those outside the west. Using a variety of legal tools adapted to different national contexts, the U.S. has encouraged efforts against "foreign" Muslims while concurrently undermining attempts to hold other foreigners -- namely its own agents -- accountable to local authorities. This presentation explores this curious mix of impunity and immunity by juxtaposing the problems of "extraordinary rendition" and contractor accountability in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq.
Darryl Li's research is broadly concerned with the relationship between three themes: empire, war, and encounters between people from different (non-western) regions and cultures. He has been exploring these themes through research on Arab Muslim travelers and immigrants in non-Arab Muslim societies experiencing armed conflict, especially fighters and aid workers in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. The latter is the primary site for his ongoing dissertation research.
Related to his work on transnational Islamist movements is a concern with understanding evolving forms of the transnational use of violence and coercion by the U.S. national security state. Drawing on his legal training, he focuses on various forms of proxy detention and rendition targeting transnational Muslim populations, as well as legal rationales conflating categories of external and internal warfare under a broader logic of global civil war.
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Published: Monday, March 07, 2011