‘Collateral damage’ is widely used in the public debate on the resort to force in international and national arenas. But what is the category’s status in international humanitarian law? What do we mean when we speak of ‘collateral damage’? This seminar was a first reflection on an ongoing project about collateral damage that aims to approach, from a critical perspective, the killing of civilians and the way their deaths are accounted for. Based on data concerning the resort to military force in Brazil, this seminar highlighted some unexpected uses, in a local context, of ‘collateral damage’ and related categories of international humanitarian law. Drawing on the work of critical theorists, the seminar also reflected on the broader potential effects of the category of ‘collateral damage’ on the milieu in which resort to force is debated. Among the project’s main questions are: what does the use of international humanitarian law’s categories tell us about our relationship with the use of force; and does the diffusion of this language change that relationship?
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Renata Nagamine is a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellow with the Laureate Program in International Law. Her project focuses on the uses of norms and categories of international humanitarian law, especially ‘collateral damage’, exploring their productive dimension. Renata is also a Postdoctoral Fellow in International Relations at the Universidade Federal da Bahia, where she is currently developing her research on gender in the United Nations.