‘Angry Eyes’ Derek Gregory Lecture at Newcastle University, March 6

Professor Derek Gregory, University of British Columbia,
Angry Eyes: the God-trick and the geography of militarised vision

5pm Friday 6th March 2015, Lecture Room G.7
Daysh Building, Newcastle University
Building 31 at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/about/visit/printablemaps/map-campus.htm)


Advocates have emphasised the ability of Predators and Reapers to provide persistent surveillance so that they become vectors of the desire to produce a fully transparent battlespace – a version of Haraway’s ‘God-trick’. Critics have insisted that vision is more than a biological-instrumental capacity, and that it is transformed into a conditional and highly selective visuality through the activation of a distinctively political and cultural technology.

My focus is on a US air strike in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province in February 2010; this has become the signature strike for critics, and it provides the ‘Prelude’ to Chamayou’s Théorie du drone. But all of these previous readings, including my own, provide a remarkably partial view of what happened. Although the strike was (in part) orchestrated by a Predator crew based in Nevada, it was carried out by two attack helicopters and involved, crucially, many other observers and commanders on the ground in Afghanistan who were calibrating the provision of close air support to a Special Forces operation. To demonstrate the significance of this, I provide a close reading of the official US military investigations (not just the Predator crew transcript) released under the FOIA. And in order to open up the narrow focus on ‘Predator view’. I also situate what happened in Uruzgan relation to two other air strikes: one in Kunduz in 2009 (in which no drones were involved) and the other in the Sangin Valley in April 2011(which was carried out by a drone).

My aim is to show that later modern war continues to rely on highly imperfect communications systems and that it involves a de-centralised, distributed and dispersed geography of militarised vision whose fields of view expand, contract and even close at different locations engaged in the administration of military violence.

Derek Gregory is Peter Wall Distinguished Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His research focuses on the histories and geographies of later modern war. He is currently completing two new books, The everywhere war and War material. He has just finished a major research project, ‘Killing Space’, on bombing from the air, and his new research project concerns the evacuation of combatant and civilian casualties from war zones, 1914-2014. He was awarded the Founder’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 2006. He blogs at Geographical Imaginations.

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