Necropolitics of drones

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Abstract

The rapid increase in the use and capabilities of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” has led to debates on their place in US strategy, particularly their use in assassination missions, or so-called targeted killings. However, this debate has tended to focus narrowly on two questions: first, whether the US use of UAVs to assassinate its enemies, including US citizens, is legal, and second, whether drones should be given the autonomy to decide when to kill humans. This paper uses the concept of “necro-politics”—the arrogation of the sovereign's right both to command death and to assign grievable meaning to the dead—as it emerges in the work of Achille Mbembe to criticize the assumptions of these questions. It is argued that debates over endowing drones with the autonomy to kill humans assume that the current human operators of drones work outside of the context of racial distinction and colonial encounter in which they already make decisions to kill. The paper supports this argument with reference to the text of a US investigation into a strike which killed civilians in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2015

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