Drone Futures Seminar 3: Katherine Chandler

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A virtual public seminar with Katherine Chandler (Georgetown University), chaired by Michael Richardson (UNSW).

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Seminar 3: American Kamikaze, Operation Crossroads and the War on Terror with Katherine Chandler.

Race and colonialism are enmeshed with early drone experiments. This talk is based on two archives: the autobiography of an American drone pilot from World War II, self published with the title "American Kamikaze" in 1984 and a scrapbook from a photographic unit for Operation Crossroads, which tested drones for aerial filming during nuclear weapons trials in 1946. The "superiority" of the drone in World War II was made against the "inhumanity" of the Japanese military and the removal of Marshall Islanders from Bikini Atoll. Chandler shows how these accounts position the "evolution" of early drone technology in relation to the "kamikaze" or "savage." That neither system actually functioned to uncouple the supposed technological advantage from the ascendancy America claimed in the Pacific. From these experiments, Chandler turns to contemporary drone warfare and consider how targeted killing continues to conflate and overlay technology with moral superiority and legitimacy.

Katherine Chandler studies the intersection of technology, media and politics through a range of scales and forms. She is an assistant professor in the Culture and Politics Program in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. Her first monograph, Unmanning: How Humans, Machines and Media Perform Drone Warfare (Rutgers University Press, 2020), examines unmanned aircraft from 1936 - 1992. She asks how life and death are adjudicated through conditions organized as if control were ''unmanned'' and outlines how politics is disavowed as a result. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in New Media.

About the Drone Futures series:

Drone Futures brings together leading artists, humanities and social science scholars whose research intersects with the emerging field of drone studies. From the neo-colonial violence of contemporary wars in the Middle East and Africa to the strange histories of unmanned aerial vehicles to activist uses in struggles for justice, this seminar series looks to the past and present to think into the future. By showcasing inter-disciplinary scholarship, it aims to spark new connections and inspire debate about how to build more just drone futures.

Taking place from August through to November 2020, the Drone Futures seminars will be streamed live to YouTube, where participants can converse and post questions through the comments function. Please register your interest in attending this virtual event.

The Drone Futures Seminar Series will culminate in the Drone Cultures Symposium, hosted virtually on the 8-10 of December by the UNSW Media Futures Hub. For a link to a recorded podcast of Drone Futures seminars, as well as information about the other presentations in the seminar series and the upcoming Drone Cultures Symposium, visit the project's website:

The Drone Cultures Symposium is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award.

Drone Cultures acknowledge and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, particularly the Bedegal, Bidjigal and Gadigal Peoples, and their elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded, and the struggle for justice continues.

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