Unmanned? Gender Recalibrations and the Rise of Drone Warfare

TitleUnmanned? Gender Recalibrations and the Rise of Drone Warfare
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBayard de Volo, Lorraine
JournalPolitics & Gender
Date Published03/2016

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—drones—are increasingly prominent in U.S. military strategy. The U.S. Air Force trains more UAV pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined. A 2011 Defense Department analysis predicted “a force made up almost entirely of [UAVs] by the middle of this century." Some argue that drones and other robotics so alter the character and conduct of military operations as to constitute a revolution in military affairs. The growing literature on drones has yet to incorporate a sustained gender analysis. To address this gap, the author turns to feminist international relations’ (IR) understanding of gender as a primary signifier of power in global politics and conflict, a relationship that also operates in reverse, as militarization and war inform gender. In the gender-war literature, the research question is commonly posed in terms of how war is gendered—that is, how gender informs war and militarization. Here, the author reverses the question. Inquiry into how war informs gender produces new insights into gender as well as domestic and global democracy, peace, and security. As an initial step in assessing the gender repercussions of this new form of warfare, the author asks, Does the revolutionary rise of drone warfare elicit gender recalibrations, and if so, what are the implications? 

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