Lindsay Murch

The Figure of the Warrior in the World of British Drone Pilots

Supervisor: Professor Nicholas Wheeler and Dr Nicola Smith

The British military remains a strongly masculine institution (not just in terms of the number of male to female members but in terms of its structure, culture and language). It appears that, in order to be considered valued members, drone pilots needs to demonstrate their masculinity, and one means of doing this is through the construction of a warrior identity.

Derided by some of their fellow military members as 'arm chair warriors', 'cubicle warriors'; and with popular reports referring to them as "pilots" rather than pilots; drone pilots are having to break new ground in terms of their identity within the military establishment. Some commentators have directly connected the use of drones with the decline of the warrior identity within the military. They argue that the lack of physical risk to drone pilots renders war entirely instrumental and that, devoid of the existential realm, drone pilots are unable to meet the criteria to be considered warriors.

However, I am interested to find out whether there is the possibility that drone pilots will develop their own form of military masculinity, one which is built on the air force history of technological mastery, and enhances the need for rationality in stressful situations. The mythological warrior, even with his physical strength, and martial skill, was often plagued by moments of irrational passion, of anger, hate, and this (arguably) enabled him to undertake killing which was cruel, illegal, and even pathological. It is perhaps possible, that drone pilot warrior identities will focus on connotations of moral courage (including knowing when to hold back from taking action) and rationality.

Profile

On completing my MA at the University of Birmingham I joined the ICCS as a PhD student (jointly with POLSIS) and a research associate. In the role of the latter I was involved with two major projects: "The Political Effects of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles on Conflict and Cooperation within and between States" (funded by the ESRC) and University of Birmingham Policy Commission on 'The Security Impact of Drones: Challenges and Opportunities for the UK'. My first two years (part time) as a PhD student were funded by the Royal Aeronautical Society, and I am now a full time student with funding from the ESRC. In the next academic year I will be undertaking a Universitas 21 Scholarship exchange to the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Qualifications

  • BSc Econ European Politics & International Relations Cardiff University
  • MA International Relations (Diplomacy) UoB

Research interests

  • Drone warfare
  • Feminist and Gender Theory
  • Strategic studies

Teaching responsibilities

Modules Taught:

  • POLS 105 Introduction to International Relations Theory
  • POLS 207 Institutions and Policies of the EU
  • Academic Writing and Study Skills through the Academic Skills Centre

Professional memberships

  • British International Studies Association (BISA)
  • Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)

Conference papers

'Military Technology and Hegemonic Masculinity', presented at British International Studies Conference, Dublin 2014

'Intimacy and Distance: Gendered Constructions of Drone Pilot Identities', presented at the Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham Colloquium, Birmingham 2014

'Sex and Death in the World of Rational Defense Intellectuals: A review of Carol Cohn' International Security Theory Reading Group, Birmingham 2014

Publications

'Drones: It's all about access' Security Dilemmas Blog Post, 25 March 2015 accessed at: https://securitydilemmas.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/drones-its-all-about-access/

'Sex and Gender in Drone Pilot Interviews' Security Dilemmas Blog Post, 27 January 2015 accessed at: https://securitydilemmas.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/sex-and-gender-in-drone-pilot-interviews/

'The UK and the Changing Character of Conflict and Intervention' Security Dilemmas Blog Post, 30 May 2014, accessed at: https://securitydilemmas.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/the-uk-and-the-changing-character-of-conflict-and-intervention/

'Playstation Mentality: Conflation of Mission and Platform', Security Dilemmas Blog Post, 12 April 2014, accessed at: https://securitydilemmas.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/playstation-mentality-conflation-of-mission-and-weapons-platform/

'The Outcome of the Killing of Hakimullah Mehsud' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog 24 November 2013

'Who goes there? Issues of identity in 'Drone Wars'.' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog 09 September 2013

'Drones at BISA 2013' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog, 23 June 2013

'A Drone by any other name...: Drone Semantics' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog 09 June 2013

'Proliferation & Public Opinion' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog 29 May 2013

'The Ethical Ambivalence of Technology' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog 16 June 2013

'Predator: A Pilot’s Perspective' Book Review, Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog 20 May 2013

'Individuals in the Protest Against Drone Strikes' Institute of Conflict, Cooperation & Security Projects Blog  09 May 2013

Contact details

Email: lcm263@bham.ac.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lindsaymurch (@lindsaymurch)