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Transgression, life and death by ‘insect drones’: Towards a feminist ontology and posthumanitarian law

Conference contribution
Authors Matilda Arvidsson
Published in Invited research seminar talk, La Trobe Law School Seminar, Melbourne, Australia
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Law
Language en
Keywords international humanitarian law, posthumanism, drones, insects, war
Subject categories International law


Abstract: This seminar revisits well-known contemporary warfare technologies, such as the use of drones and insect-simulating swarming technologies, in order to describe and explore the challenges for international humanitarian law (IHL) in a posthuman condition. Why, and to which effects, does IHL aim to humanize warfare, when humans and other agents at war seem ever-more technologized, transgressing boundaries between biological life and technological innovation? When war-agents queer boundaries between spices and subjects/objects by becoming-insects, can feminist posthumanist theory help us describe and critique both the ‘necropolitical’ forms of warfare and the anthropocentric law that seeks to govern it? Often discussed as either a utopian vision of warfare without human casualties, or a dystopian cataclysm of robotic take-over of the human world, ‘new technologies’ in warfare has attracted much attention. Both scholarship and practice agree that ‘keeping the human in the loop’ is paramount, maintaining ‘the human’ as the law’s ultimate protective aim as well as the agent accountable for military decisions. But what if IHL were to embrace the fact that both agents at war and people enduring war live ever-converging digital and material lives and that it is increasingly difficult to define where a human individual begins and ends? Could IHL become IPHL – international posthumanitarian law – extending both protection and accountability beyond the material human body and agency? Drawing on posthumanist feminist scholarship, in particular the work of Rosi Braidotti, this seminar aims to explore and describe the challenges facing contemporary IHL and lawyers when applying humanitarian provisions to drones, robots, and digital bodies alike.

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