Around the world, COVID-19 lockdowns have accelerated the intrusion into our everyday lives of technologies of telepresence, which enable us to be simultaneously “here” and “there” at all times. From the postal system to telephones, from radio and TV to the internet, telepresence is not a new phenomenon; but it has been radicalized in an age of live streaming and social media, FaceTime and Zoom, virtual reality and augmented reality, mass surveillance and drones.
This talk will examine the drone as the emblematic medium of the age of telepresence, inquiring into its transformation of myriad domains of society, including warfare, surveillance, and, in a moment of global pandemic and economic crisis, public health and supply chain management. How do drones reshape human perception and political life? What ideologies are embedded in their manufacture and their uses? And how can we recover forms of relation that are not imbued with the imperial logics they enable? Contesting racialized and colonizing ways of seeing, the talk will consider Édouard Glissant’s proposition of a “right to opacity,” Simone Browne’s notion of “dark sousveillance,” and various practices of repair and resistance in the arts and in social movements.
Image: Still from Alex Rivera's film Sleep Dealer.