New ‘Foucauldian Boomerangs’: Drones and Urban Surveillance

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Ole B. Jensen


This paper uses the metaphor of ‘boomerangs’ articulated by Michel Foucault to discuss the potential for drones to become the ‘next layer’ of urban surveillance in our cities. Like earlier Western technologies and techniques of government that were ‘tested out’ in foreign warzones and then ‘brought back’ to urban centres (the helicopter and its utilization in Vietnam and its return to urban police forces is a clear illustration hereof), contemporary unmanned aerial vehicles hold the potential to act as proverbial ‘Foucauldian boomerangs’ and return from warzones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to Western cities. The paper explores how a nexus of Surveillance Studies and mobilities research may be a fruitful way into comprehending this new phenomenon. En route the practical applications of drones as well as the historical importance of aerial power are connected to a situational understanding of mobilities. The paper points at a number of challenges for the future and should be understood as a first tentative attempt to set this on the research agenda.

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Author Biography

Ole B. Jensen, Department of Architecture and Media Technology, Aalborg University

Professor if Urban Theory