USA: In-coming Book Review Editor for Law & Society Review, To Publish Title.. Discounting Life: Necropolitical Law, Culture, and the Long War on Terror

Jothie Rajah is Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. Her research lies at the intersections of law, language, and power.

She is in-coming Book Review Editor for Law & Society Review, and has been a founding member and past coordinator of the Law and Society Association Collaborative Research Network on British Colonial Legalities and a member of the consultancy team working on translating Lao laws as part of a United Nations Development project. In addition to two monographs, her research articles have been widely published in peer reviewed journals, edited collections, and legal handbooks, including the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies; Law, Text, Culture; the Journal of Law, Culture and the Humanities; the Transnational Law Journal; and The Routledge Handbook on Law and Society.

Her latest book, Discounting Life: Necropolitical Law, Culture, and the Long War on Terror, analyzes the United States’ justification for post-9/11 “War on Terror” through cultural and media framing, which authorized and legitimized the discounting of some lives so that others—American nationals—may live.

Research Focus

Law, legitimacy, and authoritarianism; the war on terror; law, culture, and the humanities; international organizations and the global public sphere in constructions of norms for the rule of law; and the relationship between law, religion, and national identity.

Jothie Rajah

Discounting Life
Necropolitical Law, Culture, and the Long War on Terror

Part of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 2022
  • AVAILABILITY: Not yet published – available from June 2023
  • FORMAT: Hardback
  • ISBN: 9781316513682

Extrajudicial, extraterritorial killings of War on Terror adversaries by the US state have become the new normal. Alongside targeted individuals, unnamed and uncounted others are maimed and killed. Despite the absence of law’s conventional sites, processes, and actors, the US state celebrates these killings as the realization of ‘justice.’ Meanwhile, images, narrative, and affect do the work of law; authorizing and legitimizing the discounting of some lives so that others – implicitly, American nationals – may live. How then, as we live through this unending, globalized war, are we to make sense of law in relation to the valuing of life? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach to law to excavate the workings of necropolitical law, and interrogating the US state’s justifications for the project of counterterror, this book’s temporal arc, the long War on Terror, illuminates the profound continuities and many guises for racialized, imperial violence informing the contemporary discounting of life.

  • Introduces and theorizes necropolitical law
  • Includes interdisciplinary scholarship on the co-constitutions of law, politics, culture in an accessible manner
  • Departs from doctrinal law’s dominant frameworks for thinking about law, sovereignty, and exception


Reviews & endorsements

‘Discounting Life reveals the consequential weight of visual representation in the strategic discourses of counterterrorism after 9/11. Drawing on law, humanities and social science to probe key episodes in the War on Terror, Dr. Rajah examines the normalization of a complex politics of death with nuanced insight and originality.’ Carol J. Greenhouse, Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

‘This extraordinary account of necropolitical law, forged in the heartlands of US colonialism, imperialism and slavery, and reanimated in the long War on Terror that begins well before 9/11, provides a new lens through which to analyze law’s capacities to authorize the value of certain lives over others. A close reading of texts, images, and events unveils the mutually constitutive histories of racial violence and liberal legality that is both chilling and revelatory.’ Eve Darian-Smith, Professor of Global and International Studies, University of California, Irivine and author of Global Burning: Rising Antidemocracy and the Climate Crisis

‘In Discounting Life, Jothie Rajah argues that the cultural and media framing of the ‘long War on Terror’ as the vanquishing of irrational, extraordinary, and exceptional enemies has led to the extension of US sovereignty to a planetary scale. Through an extension its ‘necropolitical law,’ Rajah argues that the U.S. justifies its right to determine who may live and die not as an exception to legality but squarely in the context of its necropolitical legal calculus. A smart, well-researched, and powerful analysis of law’s role in the long War on Terror, Discounting Life is necessary reading.’ Alex Lubin, Professor of African American Studies, The Pennsylvania State University

‘An astute investigation of state-sponsored killing under the banner of the War on Terror. Rajah shows the life-and-death stakes of modern state sovereignty. This gripping book brings the discounted lives of millions killed in the War on Terror back into the conversation about law, sovereignty, state power, and the exception. It is superb.’ Ian Hurd, Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University

‘This is a phenomenal work of scholarship. Through masterful and deeply original readings of law as expressed in photos, film, texts, and events, Jothie Rajah uncovers the coded law underlying the violence the US has unleashed around the world during its long War on Terror. Rigorous, erudite, and deeply creative, Discounting Life is a truly stunning book.’ Leti Volpp, Robert D. and Leslie Kay Raven Professor of Law, UC Berkeley