Predatory war, drones and torture: remapping the body in pain

Kevin McSorley

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Elaine Scarry argues in The Body in Pain that war is a vast and reciprocal swearing on the body, with corporeality key not only to its brutal prosecution but also to the eventual ending of the political ‘crisis of substantiation’ that war entails. However, her work has not been extensively explored with reference to significant transformations in the embodied experiences of contemporary warfare. This article thus analyses a particular articulation of late modern warfare that I term predatory war, whose current signature motif is the drone strike, through the lens of Scarry’s work. Here, the associated modes of embodiment are radically non-reciprocal, the woundscapes of conflict are profoundly asymmetric, and the affective mediation of bodily injury does not substantiate any ending to the conflict. As such, I argue that the ontology and phenomenology of predatory war increasingly resembles what Scarry identifies as the underlying structure of torture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)73-99
Number of pages27
JournalBody and Society
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • war
  • torture
  • body
  • pain
  • Scarry
  • drone
  • predatory war


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