Society of Fellows Visiting Scholar Derek Gregory, British academic & geographer, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor & Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia.
This presentation traces an abiding concern with the vulnerabilities of American bodies through a series of material entanglements between drones and nuclear war. Part of this was rooted in popular culture: in the wake of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki public commentary in the United States treated American lives as newly vulnerable and repeatedly imagined the consequences of co-ordinated nuclear strikes on major cities. But part of it was techno-scientific: the US Air Force experimented with the use of remotely-controlled aircraft to deliver nuclear bombs and to take samples from atomic clouds in order to minimise risks to its aircrews. These concerns have been radicalised by today’s Predators and Reapers, ‘projecting power without vulnerability’, but the two also find common ground in a distinctive geography. The Nevada Test Site was the major locus for atomic tests in the continental United States and the Air Force portal to this vast laboratory – Indian Springs – is now Creech Air Force Base, the hub for today’s remote operations. The paper concludes with a reflection on the remoteness that surrounds the vulnerability of other lives to American aerial violence.
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