As military technologies progress at a pace that challenges human cognitive and reasoning capacities, it is becoming ever more difficult to appraise the ethics of their use. In this article, I argue that the contours of ethical killing are shaped and constrained by a medical discourse that has its basis in a deeper regime of techno-biopolitical expertise. Narratives and representations of drones as surgical, ethical and wise instruments for counter-terrorism activities rely not only on the rendering neutral of both technology and practice, but also on a conflation of technology with practice as a biopolitical necessity. In this conflation, I argue, the practice of targeted killing is adiaphorized. Images and metaphors of the body politic turn drone-strikes into a form of medicine that experts prescribe as a means of treating or preventing political cancers, diseases and illnesses. Ethics, in turn, is treated as a primarily technical matter – something to be technologically clarified and administered from an expert space beyond the zone of ethical contestation. As long as this is the case, ethics will remain but a cog in our new killing machines.


Journal Article



0967-0106, 1460-3640


Schwarz, Elke (Author)




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