Predator Empire: The Geopolitics of US Drone Warfare – published

It’s great to see that a paper I started close to two years ago in August 2011 has finally been published online in the journal Geopolitics.

Since I first wrote that paper (a little too hastily!) after obtaining my PhD and starting at Glasgow as a postdoc, much of my own thinking and analysis has shifted somewhat, particularly when it comes to  understanding the historical roots of unmanned aircraft and the enduring legacies of imperialism. The analysis also leans quite heavily on the importance of the CIA to the drone wars, as JSOC wasn’t on my radar back then in the same way it is now.

Still, I consider it the publication I’m most proud of – particularly as it marked a shift in my own thinking and direction as an academic.

Predator Empire: The Geopolitics of US Drone Warfare


This paper critically assesses the CIA’s drone programme and proposes that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is driving an increasingly “dronified” US national security strategy. The paper suggests that large-scale ground wars are being eclipsed by fleets of weaponised drones capable of targeted killings across the planet. Evidence for this shift is found in key security documents that mobilise an amorphous conflict against vaguely defined al-Qa’ida “affiliates”. This process is legitimised through the White House’s presentation of drone warfare as a bureaucratic conflict managed by a “disposition matrix”. These official narratives are challenged by the voices of people living in the tribal areas of Pakistan. What I term the Predator Empire names the biopolitical power that digitises, catalogues, and eliminates threatening “patterns of life” across a widening battlespace. This permanent war is enabled by a topological spatial power that folds the distant environments of the affiliate into the surveillance machinery of the Homeland.

Available online here, with a pre-corrected version without figures here.

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One Response to Predator Empire: The Geopolitics of US Drone Warfare – published

  1. Reblogged this on Observing US Security, Politics, Geography, and Pop Culture and commented:
    A great piece on drones and the US national security state by Ian Shaw. Just published in Geopolitics!

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