Remote Control Occupation and the new Epistemo-technologies of Sovereignty
This doctoral thesis takes up the contemporary military drone and seeks to uncover the historical, political and technical formations veiled by its colloquial apprehension as a remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The project has been undertaken as practice-based research in fine art and as such is composed of two equally weighted elements that are mutually constitutive. The practical element takes the form of a literary novel.
Observations taken of phenomena at a given order of magnitude do not necessarily carry over to other scales. Because I argue that the drone is operational across multiple scales the investigation has required a method capable of addressing a plurality of magnitudes. Two structuring devices run through the thesis: the etymology of the term drone and the case of a 2015 signature strike in the FATA region of Pakistan. The etymological account demonstrates a historical migration of ways in which the individual has been configured in relation to reason and a political framework. The 2015 signature strike serves to distinguish the current drone from its etymological precedent.
Contextualised within a global military-commercial (mil-com) projection of power the drone is understood as a producer of knowledge (dronology) and near-sovereign within conditions of generally distributed sovereignty. The drone exerts an algorithmic governmentality differentiated from political governmentality. Agency within the drone assemblage is mutable and concentrated across a network topology. If the sovereign state has been in a relationship of recurrent causality with the indivisible sovereign subject it is shown that the drone is in such a relation to dividuated forms of life. I demonstrate that the drone is a near-sovereignty that subverts and sabotages biopolitical theories of power. The mode of power in which the body presupposes the force of law is insufficient for the drone which I argue to be a form of sovereign power for which the subject body is no longer meaningful. The body lingers on as the hypo-ject a corollary to the signature.