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'Manning' the 'unmanned': reapproaching the military drone through learning the/to drone

Jackman, A. ORCID: (2023) 'Manning' the 'unmanned': reapproaching the military drone through learning the/to drone. Political Geography, 104. 102894. ISSN 0962-6298

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2023.102894


A global turn to the drone is underway. While automation creep and the rise of autonomy necessitate critical attention to the non-human, drone labour or ‘manning’ nonetheless remains a constitutive part of, and limitation upon, the drone assemblage. Situated in a context of personnel shortage, this article pursues an embodied geopolitics of drone labour. Thinking with literature urging the ‘witnessing’ of drone strikes and understanding of the infrastructures undergirding them, it offers three contributions. First, while cognisant of the access challenges accompanying research into military practice and objects, it introduces two under-examined fieldsites through which it reapproaches the drone. The military conference and industry training course, it argues, offer windows of empiric access and act to widen the methodological toolkit deployed in the drone’s critical accounting. Second, reapproaching the drone as such enables contextual and conceptual reflections on the embodied experiences of drone operators, those explored at alternative sites and temporalities and revealing distinct forms of operational strain. Third, in developing a geopolitics of drone labour, it also accounts for the embodied labours of undertaking critical drone research, unpacking different forms of strained research encounter at each fieldsite. The conclusion engages feminist geopolitics as a lens through which to explore connections across and between the article’s multiple scales, actors, and experiences (of strain). Collectively, the article contributes insight around military access and methodological adaptation, and an empirically-driven account of the embodied geopolitics of drone labour inclusive of both drone operators and researchers, conceptualising different forms of strain therein.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:111710
Uncontrolled Keywords:Drone, drone warfare, drone geopolitics, drone methods, embodiment, strain


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