Apartheid Drone

05 Oct, 2022

Apartheid Drone

Alum Katherine Chandler published "Apartheid Drone: Infrastructures of militarism and the hidden genealogies of the South African Seeker" in Social Studies of Science giving a fascinating history into the development of unmanned aircraft.

From the abstract:

In the 1980s and 1990s, South Africa was considered a global leader in the development of unmanned aircraft largely because of the Seeker, a drone created by the state-controlled armaments industry during apartheid. This article examines how military power, state-enforced racial hierarchies, and global exchange are made visible and obscured through the drone’s unmanned system. It advances the concept of drone infrastructure, which updates theories of the drone that focus on optics and verticality. Drone infrastructure studies the web of relations organized by aircraft systems and articulates how the interplay of visibility and invisibility affectively and materially structures drone systems. The study starts with the ‘invisible’ transfer of drone technology that led to the Seeker, pointing to a shared genealogy of warfare linking South Africa, Israel, and the United States, as well as the ‘secret’ use of the Seeker in the South African Border Wars. It then turns to how, in the post-apartheid era, the Seeker was refashioned as a technology of national protection and democratic advance, a ‘visible’ symbol of the new state. Contemporary efforts to use drone aircraft in South Africa for wildlife conservation in the 2010s aim to overwrite these earlier uses, describing the air platform as international aid. Yet, the Seeker’s militarized infrastructure continues to shape drone use and the logics of white supremacy persist in the networks of relations organized by contemporary drone use in South Africa.

Read the full article here.