The Politics of Life and Death
: Exploring the Discourses and Representations of Drone Killings in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen

  • Andrew Paul Peter Kenning

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores how discursive practices and language (re)produce the hegemony of the war on terrorism and (re)legitimise drone warfare through (re)presentations in government communications and news media reporting. The analysis maps the circulation of discourses and practices constructed by bio-power and necro- power that shape assumptions and narratives to materialise bodies and spaces for death. Drawing from the works of Achille Mbembé, Guy Emerson, Michel Foucault, Syed Irfan Ashraf and Kristin Shamas, the research uses the concept of necro-spatialization to explore how discursive and material relations between spaces, bodies, and violence are co-constituted in discourse. These relationships are performative for constructing the necro-political subjectivity of the living dead and representations of death-worlds to normalise drone killings of combatants and non-combatants. The thesis argues that these formations operationalise the pharmakon of our contemporary era. The rationalisation of technologies in counter-terrorism that normatively represent a remedy to terrorism, yet simultaneously a poison as they proliferate violence under ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ representations.
Adding to the existing literature on the bio-politics and necro-politics of drone warfare, this research draws from the works of Roxanne Doty, Laura Shepherd, and Richard Jackson by using Discursive Practices Approach. Employing discourse analysis, this thesis critically analyses five case studies; the ungovernable necro-space of Somalia and Yemen; the construction of combatant and non-combatant subjectivities; the drone killing of UK citizens in Syria; the development and representations of R9X ‘ninja’ missiles; and finally, drone strikes and suicide bombing in Afghanistan. Each of these chapters presents their own nuanced arguments, but they centre around necro-spatialization’s discourses of ungovernable space, life-preserving violence, necro- ethics, and bodily mutilation. The analysis unveils epistemological-ontological conditions of bio-power and necro-power as discursive illusions of making life using drone strikes, simultaneously produces the necro- political ‘other’ by materialising spaces and bodies for death.
Date of Award31 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorPeter Lee (Supervisor), Sophia Wood (Supervisor) & Esther Sonnet (Supervisor)

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