Prosthetics of law and the anomic violence of drones

Joseph Pugliese*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the relationship between law and technology in the context of the use of drones by the United States in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Specifically, I examine the relation of law to lethal unmanned aerial combat technologies (drones), which conduct war and killing at a distance, in the context of two seemingly opposed figures: the parenthetical and the prosthetic. The parenthetical relation of law to technology operates to suspend the relation between the executioner who manipulates the killing technology of the drone from the fact of the resultant execution. In this scenario, law is conceived of in the most radically instrumental of understandings: it enables and legitimates the execution while simultaneously suspending the connection between the doer and the deed. The prosthetic relation of law to technology is, conversely, premised on the indissociable articulation between technology and its seeming opposite: the biological human subject. Through a series of instrumental mediations, the biological human actor becomes coextensive with the drone that she or he pilots from the remote ground control station. I examine the use of drones by the United States in the context of the war on terror in order to bring into focus the mutation of robotic war into a type of normalised civic practice. I close the article by refocusing on the relation between law and technology, and in the process I attempt to extrapolate a general theory of law as prosthetic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-961
Number of pages31
JournalGriffith Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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