Securing America : drone warfare in American culture after 9/11

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2017-05

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This dissertation is an interdisciplinary analysis of the growing prevalence of military drones within everyday American culture since 9/11. I argue that domestic institutions like military contractors, educational bodies, the videogame industry, and even the church, all of which hold relationships with the military, frame military drones as ideologically and emotionally rich sources of power, joy, and comfort for Americans—a technological solution to the problem of perceived insecurity that surged after 9/11. In articulating the drone as both extraordinarily powerful and deadly, and benevolent and comforting, such discourses aim to legitimize, if not celebrate, remote warfare among the general public, while also stunting critiques of unmanned machines’ broader political and cultural consequences. These institutions can thus shape broad cultural visions of the value of drones to national security and transform war, surveillance systems, and the militarization of American cultural life into positive ends, while also ideologically preparing American civilians for careers creating or operating military drones. This dissertation contributes to debates about post-9/11 American culture in documenting how the fetishization and celebration of drone technology has accelerated the militarization of everyday life in America since 2001. It also adds to existing scholarship in cultural studies, media studies, and science and technology studies that has investigated the domestic impacts of earlier military weapons, like the atomic bomb or the tank, in similarly exploring the cultural significance of the drone, a technology whose influence continues to grow in both military circles and in American cultural life.

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