Manhunts and Metadata: Racialized Violence and Targeted Killing

Authors: Katharine Hall*, Dartmouth College
Topics: Political Geography, Military Geography
Keywords: drones, race, technology, algorithmic security
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Beauregard, Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Much of the debate about the future of drone warfare focuses on a shift to automated targeting and the potential incorporation of big data algorithms and artificial intelligence into military weapons and surveillance technology more broadly. These developments have paralleled the adoption of similar technology by police departments in the United States (for example the Beware software program used by the Fresno Police Department). In this paper, I look at this turn to metadata and automated targeting, and I examine the links between the longer histories of violence and scientific development embedded in the contemporary drone strike and police threat detection programs. I argue that focusing on these intersecting histories of violence and scientific practice helps to bring to the fore the racialized processes and epistemological frameworks that shape contemporary targeting and are in turn reproduced through it. This has the effect of shifting contemporary debates like those over drones and AI away from the ethics of removing humans from warfare that tend to black box the ways metadata and algorithms are used to ask questions instead about how algorithmic targeting practices create highly racialized threats.

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