Antoine Bousquet: The Eye of War: Life and Death in the Age of Fatal Visibility

The Centre for the Study of Democracy, based in the Department of Politics and International Relations, has an international reputation for research excellence, with research themes in contentious politics and democracy, security and violence in global politics, gender and sexuality, as well as resilience and sustainability.

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Littered with electronic sensors and criss-crossed by the watchful eyes of orbiting satellites and drone aircraft, the contemporary battlespace is placed under intense surveillance. With precision-guided munitions that can be delivered to any position on the globe, any entity an advanced military can perceive is liable to be struck with devastating accuracy and lethality. This present martial condition can be encapsulated by one strategist’s terse formula: “visibility equals death.” Drawing on his recently published monograph The Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), Antoine Bousquet will chart the historical constitution, present operation, and future ramifications of the disembodied gaze which enables contemporary projections of military power through the key functions of sensing, imaging, and mapping. In conjunction with the counter-measures taken by belligerents to evade or deceive this roaming eye through dissimulation, misdirection and bedazzlement, war has increasingly become a struggle for mastery over the fields of perception. The consequences for both the character of armed conflict and the place of human subjects within it are profound. Conventional boundaries between war and peace dissolve under the combined activities of global targeting and total dissimulation while the locus of human agency within the war machine becomes ever more indeterminate.

Antoine Bousquet is Reader in International Relations at Birkbeck College, University of London. His research spans the study of war and society, the history and philosophy of science and technology, and social and political theory. He is the author of The Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) and The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity (Hurst & Columbia University Press, 2009).

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