School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses

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    Structure and event: the politics and poetics of settler colonial critique
    Al-Asaad, Faisal ( 2021)
    In recent years, the study and critique of settler colonialism has emerged as a distinct and key area of scholarship with a notable presence across the humanities and social sciences. This scholarly field has made a significant contribution to the critical study of race, colonialism, and empire, and many of its concepts and ideas are fairly prevalent and recognisable in both academic and activist spaces. This thesis examines the imaginary of settler colonial critique, highlighting some of its key terms and tendencies in order to reflect on the analytic and political effects, as well as analytic and political potential, of this critical practice. The discussion explores the structure of a critical narrative that gives this practice its efficacy and distinct character, while also generating some persistent questions for its practitioners. One of these questions can be understood as that of the colonial subject or the subject of race, and this thesis suggests that settler colonial critique reintroduces this question in a way that is both problematic and productive. It further suggests that the way in which a critical imaginary stages its subject is consequential for its analytic and political efficacy. To explore these questions, the discussion looks closely at the work of late historian and scholar, Patrick Wolfe, which has been formative for the emergence of settler colonial studies and in the articulation of its critical narrative and vocabulary. It highlights the multiple analytic possibilities in this work and considers the political and pedagogic motivations that shaped its imaginary. It further situates the latter in the onto-epistemic conditions of critique and critical practice, privileging the historical intersection of anthropological and Marxist thought and exploring this as a crucial if contradictory site for reimagining social forms and historical determinacy. I show how Wolfe’s theorising shapes the analytic gaze of settler colonial critique, and how the latter comes to predominantly ‘see’ or understand the social and historical logics of determinacy by which settler colonial practices and subjects are constituted. Critical responses to settler colonial studies have been alert to the problems of determinacy that have emerged as a result. While my argument is in conversation with these responses, it also departs from them by suggesting that Wolfe’s work remains highly instructive for reimagining and renarrating settler colonialism’s logic of social and historical determinacy in ways that can be analytically productive and politically enabling. The emphasis on the notion of the critical imaginary therefore is a way of arguing that settler colonial critique is a practice that participates in realising ethico-political possibilities in the process of imagining them and the subjects that embody them.
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    The Drone Interface: A Relational Study of U.S. Drone Violence in Afghanistan
    Edney-Browne, Alexandra Kate ( 2020)
    This thesis examines lived experiences of military drone violence, finding out about the lives of people who live(d) in areas of drone surveillance and bombardment in Afghanistan and veterans of the U.S. Air Force’s drone program. More specifically, it seeks to understand the relations between these two groups of people and the effects of these relations. To this end, it draws on interviews undertaken in Afghanistan, refugee camps in Greece and the United States in 2017, wherein interviewees were asked about the effects of drone violence on their lives and how they experience their relation to the person(s) on the other side of the drone. The project is informed by Feminist and Postcolonial International Relations/Security Studies and these fields’ insights on war and violence. As such, it not only recognises that ordinary people are significant actors in war, it also approaches the global North and global South as internally related to each other. Developing the concept of the ‘drone interface’, this thesis firstly argues for the necessity of a relational approach to the study of drone violence. The drone interface refers to the conduits – both technological and non-technological – that shape social relations between people on either side of the drone (and in turn are shaped by them). Applying the concept of the drone interface allows researchers to begin with the premise that U.S. Air Force drone personnel and people living under drones in Afghanistan have the power to affect each other. Analytically, this relational approach is necessary to better understand drone violence and its effects and implications in international relations. Politically, a relational approach uncovers a far wider range of harms inflicted in drone violence than is currently acknowledged in most academic and civil society scholarship on drones. These harms are produced in the relations between people operating and targeted by drones and are therefore missed in non-relational accounts. A relational account thus provokes a more persuasive normative critique of the use of U.S. drone surveillance and attacks than has been as-yet articulated. Second the thesis contends that the social relations between U.S. Air Force drone personnel and Afghan people experiencing drone violence need to be understood as relations of domination. These relations of domination I argue, produce and reproduce harms such as racism, sexism, poverty and alienation at the level of the domestic and the international. That is, drone violence not only (re)produces racism, sexism, poverty and alienation in international relations, it also compounds racist, patriarchal and capitalist relations within Afghanistan and the United States.