Drones, Swarms, and Becoming-Insect: Feminist Utopias and Posthuman Politics

Change log
Wilcox, LB 

Insects and ‘the swarm’ as metaphors and objects of research have inspired works in the genres of science fiction and horror; social and political theorists; and the development of war-fighting technologies such as ‘drone swarms’, which function as robot/insect hybrids. Contemporary developments suggest that the future of warfare will not be ‘robots’ as technological, individualised substitutions for idealised (masculine) warfighters, but warfighters understood as swarms: insect metaphors for non-centrally organised problem-solvers that will become technologies of racialisation. As such, contemporary feminist analysis requires an analysis of the politics of life and death in the insect and the swarm, which, following Braidotti (2002), cannot be assumed to be a mere metaphor or representation of political life, but an animating materialist logic. The swarm is not only a metaphor but also a central mode of biopolitical and necropolitical war, with the ‘terrorist’ enemy represented as swarm-like as well. In analysing the relations of assemblage and antagonism in the war ontologies of the drone swarm, I seek inspiration from what Hayles (1999, p. 47) describes as a double vision that ‘looks simultaneously at the power of simulation and at the materialities that produce it’. I discuss various representations and manifestations of swarms and insect life in science/speculative fiction, from various presentations of the ‘Borg’ in Star Trek (1987–1994, 1995–2001, 1996), Alien (1979) and The Fly (1958, 1986) to more positive representations of the ‘becoming-insect’ as possible feminist utopia in Gilman’s Herland (2015 [1915]) and Tiptree’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (1989 [1976]). Posthuman warfare also contains the possibilities of both appropriating and rewriting antagonisms of masculine and feminine in the embodiment of the subject of war in the swarm. This piece seeks to analyse new ways of feminist theorising of the relations of power and violence in the embodiment of war as the swarm.

insect, queer, swarm, drone
Journal Title
Feminist Review
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Springer Nature