A Drone Manifesto: Re-forming the Partial Politics of Targeted Killing
Debates about today’s unmanned systems explain their operation using binary distinctions to delimit “us” and “them,” “here” and “there,” and “human” and “machine.” Yet the networked actions of drone aircraft persistently undo these oppositions. I show that unmanned systems are dissociative, not dualistic. I turn to Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1991) to reflect on how drones rework limits ranging from the scale of bodies to geopolitical territories, as well as the political challenges they entail. The analysis has two parts. The first considers how Cold War drones fit into cybernetic discourse. I examine the Firebee, a pilotless target built in the aftermath of World War II, and explore how the system acts as if it were guided by machine responses even though human control remains integral to its operation. The second part considers how contemporary discussions of drone aircraft, both for and against the systems, rely on this dissociative logic. Rather than critiquing unmanned aircraft as dehumanizing, I argue that responses to drones must address the interconnections they produce and call for a politics that puts together the dissociations on which unmanned systems rely.
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Copyright (c) 2017 Katherine Fehr Chandler
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