Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2011

Publication Citation

18 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 7 (2011)


The global reach of international law is now becoming relevant to the micromanagement of daily life. In postcolonial African states, everyday actions and their meanings are being opened up by the expansion of national jurisdiction into international jurisdiction. In relation to these changing technologies of managing shifting regimes of power, this article explores the ways that the spectacle of the rule of law is linked to the spectacle of capitalism. By examining the workings of victim and witness testimonies in the Special Court of Sierra Leone, I examine the ways that spectacles of law and articulations of suffering displace the realities of root causes of violence and the ways that these spectacles parse criminal responsibility. From rebel leaders spreading violence to the plunder of natural resources to child soldiers at once both victims and perpetrators, I detail the discursive crafting of the 'African warlord" and the consequent specter of the victim by showing how law and justice are anchored in processes and concepts that often mask their normative underpinnings. Through its focus on victims' justice and not on the consumerism that fuels production, the Special Court of Sierra Leone serves not only as the author of new legal tenets of criminal responsibility, but also as a key mechanism of power through which the law obscures the conditions that affect its making. As such, like other spectacles of power, the law is able to make its labor invisible, while displacing human action and replacing it with spectacular performances that affirm the rule of law that gains its force. It obscures its making not just through the staging and performances of rites, but also through the narrative strategies that consolidate an affective regime of suffering within which contemporary humanitarianism gains its power.

Human Rights and Legal Systems Across the Global South, Symposium, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana. 9-10 April 2010.