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Project 'Transparent Earth' and the autoscopy of aerial targeting: the visual geopolitics of the underground

Bishop, Ryan (2011) Project 'Transparent Earth' and the autoscopy of aerial targeting: the visual geopolitics of the underground [in special issue: Secrecy and Transparency] Theory, Culture & Society, 28, (7-8), pp. 270-286. (doi:10.1177/0263276411424918).

Record type: Article


The import of underground facilities in military strategy in the US grew exponentially after the Gulf War. The success of precision—guided conventional missiles meant that any above ground building or complex could be accurately targeted and destroyed, thus driving states with less sophisticate weapons to go underground to secure space for covert weapons development and the protection of command and control centers for military and governmental functions. Underground facilities have thus become the main challenge to objects of detection and targeting practices for US military research and development. This article provides a meditation on the underground in relation to military planning and technology, the limits of aerial visual control of terrain, the plans by the US military to counter underground defensive moves, the efficacy of teletechnologies to detect and destroy such installations at-a-distance, and an oblique genealogy of aerial and subterrestrial strategies in relation to technologies to overcome the limitations of each. In so doing, the paper argues a deeply connected relationship between the imaginary and the material in attempts to realize a mastery of space and populations essential to military operations, thus posing questions about sensory perception, the status of the subject with regard to agency and control, and the prosthetic outfitting of the subject that both supports and blunts agency and control.

This article appears the double special issue of the Annual Review of Theory Culture & Society, which I co-edited and which includes another piece by me.

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Published date: December 2011
Additional Information: The double issue of the TCS Annual Review was co-authored by Bishop and John Phillips. The issue is 400 pages and includes another piece that I co-authored.
Keywords: aerial surveillance, agency, military technology, senses, subjectivity, underground
Organisations: Winchester School of Art


Local EPrints ID: 337535
ISSN: 0263-2764
PURE UUID: 4c8dd457-33da-498d-a8d6-7f5f6a3409d5

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Date deposited: 27 Apr 2012 10:38
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 06:02

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Author: Ryan Bishop

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