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Scopic regimes and the visual turn in International Relations: Seeing world politics through the drone

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Kyle Grayson, Professor Jocelyn MawdsleyORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


In this paper, we argue that the lack of attention paid to the scopic regimes of modernity in the visual turn literature misses a key aspect of how visuality produces and shapes the international as both a site—and sight—of politics. In making the case that systemised ways of seeing are central to world politics, we contend that the scopic regimes of modernity help us to understand how it becomes possible for particular representational practices and outputs to resonate within broader discourses as authoritative, truthful, and/or emotively powerful. To do so, we draw from ongoing controversies over targeted killing via drones. We argue that disagreements over the legality and governance of drone warfare are more than disputes over legal statues and legitimate techniques for the application of kinetic force; they also encompass disagreements over how we see, who we see, what we see, and what counts as being seen. Thus, by demonstrating the importance of scopic regimes, we provide evidence of the value of engaging with how the visual produces the political in international relations. Moreover, we argue for international relations to engage with scopic regimes from beyond western traditions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grayson K, Mawdsley J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of International Relations

Year: 2019

Volume: 25

Issue: 2

Pages: 431-457

Print publication date: 01/06/2019

Online publication date: 25/07/2018

Acceptance date: 15/05/2018

Date deposited: 16/05/2018

ISSN (print): 1354-0661

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3713

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/1354066118781955


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