University of Cambridge > > ajb295's list > Clare Hall Tanner Lectures 2016: Reach from the sky: aerial violence and the everywhere war

Clare Hall Tanner Lectures 2016: Reach from the sky: aerial violence and the everywhere war

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  • UserProfessor Derek Gregory, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia
  • ClockWednesday 13 January 2016, 17:00-19:00
  • HouseRobinson College Auditorium.

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Bombing is back in the headlines – but then it never really left. Over the last hundred years, bombing has become the preferred military option for many states, but it has supposedly been radically transformed over the last decade or so by the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (‘drones’). Their use has attracted a lively debate, inside and outside military circles, but this has rarely situated Predators and Reapers within the longer history of aerial violence or the larger matrix of military violence within which they have been deployed.

These lectures seek to fill both those gaps by addressing two fundamental questions. First, how have people – both those who carry out air strikes and those publics who endorse them – been persuaded of the legitimacy of aerial violence? Four responses run like red threads throughout the long history of bombing from the air: bombing saves lives, especially when compared with ‘boots on the ground’; bombing is a virile, thoroughly masculine affair; bombing is scientific, objective and precise, articulated through an extended ‘kill-chain’ that ensures efficiency and disperses responsibility; and bombing is legal and therefore legitimate. These are all rhetorical devices that have certainly been transformed by today’s drone wars, but all four are vulnerable to critical discussion.

Second, what spaces have been produced through the changing ‘destruction line’ that has animated military targeting? Here there are two issues of crucial importance. One concerns the locus of targeting: in particular the emergence of ‘wars without fronts’ and the extension of military violence beyond any demarcated battlefield, and the subsequent ‘individuation of warfare’ in which targets have contracted from areas and boxes to groups and individuals. The other concerns the grammar of targeting: in particular the transformation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and the incorporation of digital signatures into the activation of the killing fields.

Answers to these questions have much to tell us about the changing contours of later modern war and its adjudication of what is to count as a ‘grievable life’ in the twenty-first century.

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