Yet, far from undermining Allied confidence in satellite imagery or in a ‘cosmic’ view of war (Kaplan, 2006), it is precisely these abstract photocartographies of violence – detached from their visceral and bloodied ‘accomplishments’ – that have licensed, say, the destruction of Fallujah (Gregory, 2004: 162; Graham, 2005b). There remains, of course, a great deal more that can be said about the politics of these aerial perspectives than can be discussed here (see, for instance, Gregory, 2004; Kaplan, 2006). The line between civilian and military technology in space is being blurred – technology is being applied in both realms as a result which allows militarization of spaceMacDonald 07, Fraser MacDonald, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Studies at Melbourne University in Australia, “Anti-Astropolitik – outer space and the orbit of geography,” Progress in Human Geography, 2007, Pages 592-615.In this discussion so far, I have been drawing attention to geography’s recent failure to engage outer space as a sphere of inquiry and it is important to clarify thatthis indictment applies more to human than to physical geography. There are, of course, many biophysical currents of geography that directly draw on satellite technologies for remote sensing. The ability to view the Earth from space, particularly through the Landsat programme, was a singular step forward in understanding all manner of Earth surface processes and biogeographical patterns(see Mack, 1990). The fact that this new tranche of data came largely from military platforms(often under the guise of ‘dual use’) was rarely considered an obstacle to science. But, as
the range of geographical applications of satellite imageryhave increasedto include such diverse activities as urban planning and icecap measurements, so too has a certain reflexivity about the provenance of the images. It is not enough, some are realizing, to say ‘I just observe and explain desertification and I have nothing to do with the military’; rather, scientists need to acknowledge the overall context that gives them access to this data in the first place (Cervino et al., 2003: 236). One thinks here of the case of Peru, whose US grant funding for agricultural use of Landsat data increased dramatically in the 1980s when the same images were found to be useful in locating insurgent activities of Maoist ‘Shining Path’ guerrillas (Schwartz, 1996). More recently, NASA’s civilian SeaWide Field Studies(Sea-WiFS) programme was used to identify Taliban forces during the war in Afghanistan(Caracciolo, 2004). The practice of geography, in these cases as with so many others, is bound up with military logics(Smi th, 1992) ; the development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) being a much-cited recent example (Pickles, 1995; 2004; Cloud, 2001; 2002; see Beck, 2003, for a case study of GIS in the service of the ‘war on terror’).
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