No “Light Footprint” in the American Drone Programme: Measuring the Gendered Impacts of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Surveillance on Local Populations in Afghanistan

Title: No “Light Footprint” in the American Drone Programme: Measuring the Gendered Impacts of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Surveillance on Local Populations in Afghanistan
Authors: Dubé, Gabrielle
Date: 2020
Abstract: The project of reducing casualty and ultimately rendering warfare more “ethical” has led to a shift in military engineering from direct, grounded interactions to distant, areal strikes. This effort of distancing belligerents further and further from the combat zone (Gregory 2011a) is the foundation of innovation in the development and practice of drone strikes (Robson, 2019, p. 101), the technology par excellence for today’s military operations. However, the increased use of military drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) , calls for recalibrations of many spheres of military affairs and society. This essay aims at measuring the need for one of these recalibrations, one that is concerned with the significance of the employment of UAVs for development theory and programmes. The impact of this type of technology has been analyzed extensively by experts through legal, economic and ethical lenses. However, its impacts for the field of development have been under studied. Through the study of the case of Afghanistan, the following pages thus assess those impacts from a bottom-up, feminist perspective in the hopes of emphasizing the very specific implications the use of UAVs have at the intersection of gender and development. More precisely, I ask how the use of UAVs, particularly via their surveillance feature, impacts the lives of women and their role in Afghanistan’s development. Building on many feminist projects interested in reattributing the fighting power and roles that women have historically occupied in armed and terrorist groups, I use a feminist, critical framework in order to re-establish women at the centre of impact assessment in development studies, and ultimately in the study of UAVs. In the study of war and conflict, gender should never be considered an afterthought. It should be integral to understanding how wars are justified and practised (Dyvik, 2017, p. 3), as well as how technology in the context of conflict affects women differently than their counterparts. A feminist perspective, as opposed or complementary to gender analyzes, ensures that this research paper works not only as a way to uncover the various experiences of women vis-à-vis drone operations, but also as a step towards informing policy and programme management to empower Afghan women within the cultural and geopolitical context. It therefore entails exposing implications of UAVs that are rooted in broader systems of oppression (colonial history, sexism, power relations, gender-based violence) and which operate within the context of conflict and occupation. In order to answer the question, the following pages will be separated in three parts. Chapter one will address the consequences of drone surveillance on local gender roles and categorization, particularly when it comes to identifying “targets”. Chapter 2 focuses on the impacts on everyday tasks performed by women in the region and their participation in development in the context of aerial surveillance. Finally, chapter 3 tackles surveillance from a technology-facilitated violence perspective, considering micro and macro consequences. That said, the essay starts with a brief overview of the literature concerned not only with discussions of the use of UAVs, but also with surveillance studies and feminist international relations. It also provides an account of the methodology and theoretical framework(s) mobilized throughout the paper.
CollectionDIM - Mémoires // IDGS - Research Papers