Heather Ashley Hayes

Heather Ashley Hayes is a scholar, author, speaker, and global citizen critic researching, writing, organizing, and teaching. Influenced by training in both rhetorical criticism and anthropological field work methods, her work focuses on the social implications of racialized violence and discourses of terrorism, both domestically and as part of the global, decades long US-led war on terror within the United States and abroad.

Dr. Hayes is Chair and Assistant Professor of the Department of Rhetoric and an affiliated faculty member in the Program in Race and Ethnic Studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, USA. She is also the author of Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Committed to public and global deliberation, she has presented her work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to diverse audiences, teaches at both a small liberal arts college and inside penitentiaries, and serves as Terrorism and Middle East desk editor for Citizen Critics (www.citizencritics.org), where she also is a contributor.

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the thriving life of racialized weaponry: violence and sonic capacities from the drone to the gun

  • Salt Palace Convention Center Room 259 Salt Lake City, UT USA (map)

Despite prolific use of the technology known as drones throughout the Middle East and North Africa beginning in 2008, little scholarship has explored the life of the drone itself and the way the weapon, as an actor, functions. In addition, few connections have been made to the way the life of the drone may inform, guide, and expand the life of other deadly weapons. This paper, presented by Professor Heather Ashley Hayes as part of the Peace and Conflict Communication division of the 2018 National Communication Association convention, will analyze one component of armed drones: their vocal capacity (that buzzing sound) alongside their capacity to generate fear in their targets. The drone itself is a living being in this reading, with the ability to speak and the ability to act, often with terminal consequences for those whom it acts upon (and sometimes those who may or may not direct it to act). Understanding the drone as having its own self-fulfilling set of logics, with the ability to speak via its generation of sound, may allow us to think about the expansion of personless weapons within both war fighting projects and domestic policing campaigns. This understanding gives us unique insight into domestic weapons proliferation and the trajectory of weapons use and exchange. We should interrogate circulation between the social life of the drone and the gun and the abilities they have to speak (through piercing aural punctuations when in use). The seeming rush with which both the U.S. military and domestic police forces are expanding these technologies exhibits ways that all weapons systems threaten to take on lives of their own. In short: how do a weapon's capacities to impact sonic landscapes facilitate its proliferation and power as a preferred technology of policing and war? And ultimately, how does this exploration point us toward circulatory discourses of self-fulfilling logics in our social life of weaponry, materializing these "weapons as actors" as the most efficient site of policing and governance of populations?