Targeted by Persuasion: Military Uniform and the Legal Matter of Killing in War

Amin Parsa, Mahmoud Keshavarz

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In this paper, we argue that the legitimation of killing in war is not simply formed by adherence to certain legal requirements that exist apart from and prior to war; instead, we suggest, the law of armed conflict in itself cannot but operate through admitting certain materials onto the battlefield as distinctively legal materials. Using the theory of legal materiality, we show that the military uniform is a legal material that makes the legal matter of legitimate targeting intelligible to law. This process happens through the ways in which the uniform shapes the possibility of visual recognition and differentiation in order to make certain bodies targetable and others not targetable. We refer to this visual recognition and differentiation as a domain of persuasion. We show that the historical, functional and visual attributes of the uniform, as a design artefact, produce a convincing domain of distinction for the attacking agent. Finally, we turn to insurgency, arguing that the legal matter of targeting is shaped not only by the presence, use and manipulation of this legal material but also by the absence of it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
JournalLaw Text Culture
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society


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