Data, Detection and the Redistribution of the Sensible in International Law

Short bio: 

Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law at UNSW Australia working in public international law and legal theory. She is the author of Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law (Cambridge University Press, 2013; paperback 2015) and The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development (co-authored with Ben Boer, Philip Hirsch, Ben Saul and Natalia Scurrah, Earthscan/Routledge, forthcoming Dec. 2015). Fleur is also the editor of Events: The Force of International Law (Routledge-Cavendish 2011; co-edited with Sundhya Pahuja and Richard Joyce) and International Legal Personality (Ashgate 2010). Currently, Fleur is in the early stages of a new project exploring the use of data analytics in global governance and related configurations of lawful association, for which she will commence fieldwork in August 2015; a representative early stage publication is ‘Global Governance through the Pairing of List and Algorithm’ 33 Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (pre-print available here). Before joining UNSW, Fleur was Co-Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law and an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Sydney. Fleur has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, a Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute and Leverhulme Visiting Fellow at Birkbeck College, the University of London. Fleur is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (BA, LLB (Hons)) and Harvard Law School (LLM, SJD); at Harvard, she was a Menzies Scholar and Laylin Prize recipient. Before commencing her academic career, Fleur practised as a corporate lawyer for six years with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York, specialising in international project finance.


International legal institutions and doctrines have long relied on certain claims and capacities of perception. The authority of law on the global plane depends upon the prospect of legal agents, occupying designated sensory and attestive roles, detecting and acting on worldly phenomena. Increased recourse to remote sensing and automated mining and analysis of data is, however, effecting a redistribution of the sensible in international legal order, introducing new pathways of mediation and patterns of assembly. This poses challenges for the authority of law and the conduct of relations globally. This paper sets out to explore those challenges by examining, in particular, changing juridical techniques surrounding the global movement of certain weapons and weapon-grade material and the mass-movement of persons. How, it asks, might these techniques be affecting the global sensorium that international legal work has sought to maintain? And what may be their ramifications for the exercise and politics of governance globally?