Heather Ashley Hayes

Heather Ashley Hayes is a scholar, writer, and educator of over seventeen years. Her scholarly work is interested in social implications of rhetorical practice and how humans use symbols to make meaning and address problems of common concern. Her research centers on violence, race, and discourses of terror. She writes about those discourses both domestically within the US and as part of the global terror wars. Her work is particularly interested in the intersection of domestic sociopolitical landscapes with dynamics of global violence, colonialism, and war. She additionally engages work about histories and circulations of violence as they relate to race, rhetorical practice, and securitization in public discourse, film, and militarized & carceral spaces throughout the world.

Hayes is currently appointed as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Media Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, USA. Her first book, Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (Palgrave Macmillan) dropped in 2016, joining a number of other article, review, and chapter length academic pieces. She presents work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to audiences in both academic spaces and outside of the university. She also serves as an Associate Editor for the public analysis space Citizen Critics, where she publishes work from time to time.

As a teacher, Hayes feels privileged in her career to have taught at institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges in the Pacific Northwest of the US to a large public high school in Texas and many spaces in between. She has worked with lots of students at various stages of their educational journeys and has been honored to receive a number of distinctions for that work. In May of 2018, she accepted Whitman College’s George Ball Excellence in Advising Award, a student nominated honor recognizing an educator for outstanding distinction in advising and mentoring students from all areas of the college.

Back to All Events

The Dawn of Humanitarian Weapons: Discourses of a Kinder, Friendlier Killing Machine

  • Lancaster University Lancaster UK (map)

Talk delivered by Heather Ashley Hayes as part of the States of Exception II: The Politics of Life, Bodies of War: Drones and Lone Wolves Symposium sponsored by the Contemporary Research on International Political Theory working group, part of the British International Studies Association, at Lancaster University from November 24-26, 2016. Talk drawn in part from her book Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (2016, for more information see "Violent Subjects" tab at left).

The enthusiastic proponents of armed drones claim the program is “a major step forward…in humanitarian technology” (Anderson, 2010). U.S. president Barack Obama has extended this idea in his direct addresses about drone use, claiming, “Simply put, these strikes save lives…we are choosing the course of action that is least likely to result in the loss of innocent life” (Obama, 2013). If we are to ponder drone attacks as humanitarian, then we must ask: How can one claim that war machines with no human being immediately attached to its killing capacity are a “humane” method of destroying life? How can we describe as “humanitarian” a program designed to annihilate human life? (Chamayou, 2015) Based on the “Living Under Drones” report co-published by Stanford Law School and NYU School of Law (2012), we also know that the everyday lives of humans living under the watchful eyes and roaming missile beams of the drones live in constant fear: “Everyone is scared all the time. When we’re sitting together to have a meeting, we’re scared there might be a strike. When you can hear the drone circling in the sky, you think it might strike you. We’re always scared. We always have this fear in our head” (Ishaq 2012). This article and presentation will confront the “fluidity of everyday practices, affects, and uncertainties” (Chaput, 2010) that come with living under drones and read this everyday phenomenon against the institutionalized discourses that frame the drone war as the dawn of a humanitarian fighting capacity. Ultimately, Hayes argues that the framing process by which drone attacks are to be understood as humanitarian allows the governing apparatus to functionally negate the experience of those most affected by the vast expanse of the program, effectively marking Muslims around the globe as permanently killable targets via the terror wars.