School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses

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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.