From Above

(c) Royal Air Force Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Royal Air Force Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

With all the talk of verticality, the volumetric and volume, I wanted to post a bit about an edited volume long in the making with Mark Whitehead and Alison Williams. We’ve just been putting together the last changes to From Above: War, Violence and Verticality due out with Hurst/OUP later this year (note the changes to cover design described below). We have a great lineup of contributors and topics, here’s the blurb:

The arrival of the aerostatic balloon at the end of the nineteenth century ushered in a new perspective on the battlefield, taking over from the mount – the hill at the edge of the field of combat – and the fortified tower positioned within it. Since then there has been no perspective more culpable in war, violence and security than the aerial one. From Above explores the aerial view in new depth and clarity. It draws in vivid detail on studies of the aerial perspective today and on rich empirical investigations of the aerial view from the past. Chapters examine a range of case studies and examples, from Vietnam and the balloon prospect, camouflage, colonial policing, to today’s drone wars. The contributors draw on perspectives from history, international relations, political geography and cultural studies in order to provide a truly interdisciplinary perspective on the view from above. They also consider the view from above in relation to its technologies, legalities, practices, doctrines, and visual culture. Among the contributors are renowned international experts such as Derek Gregory, Trevor Paglen, Caren Kaplan, Klaus Dodds and Priya Satia. The aerial view is a perspective that can no longer be ignored, one that is of growing sig- nificance for those interested in geopolitics, militarism and conflict.

And the table of contents looks something like this:

Introduction: Visual Culture and Verticality

Peter Adey, Mark Whitehead and Alison Williams

Section One: Science, militarism, and distance

The Balloon Prospect: Aerostatic Observation and the Emergence of Militarized Aeromobility

Caren Kaplan

Lines of Descent

Derek Gregory

Aerial Surveying, Geopolitical Competition and the Falkland Islands Dependency Aerial Survey Expedition (FIDASE 1955-1957)

Klaus Dodds

Networks, Nodes and De-Territorialised Battlespace: The Scopic Regime of Rapid Dominance

Martin Coward

Photomosaics: Mapping the Front, Mapping the City

Paul K. Saint-Amour


Section Two: Aerial aesthetics and the view from below

Concealing the crude: airmindedness and the camouflaging of Britain’s oil installations, 1936-1939

James Robinson

Cinematic Cultures of War and the Aesthetics of Disappearance

John Armitage

Project Transparent Earth and the Autoscopy of Aerial Targeting: The Visual Geopolitics of the Underground

Ryan Bishop

AFP-731 or The Other Night Sky: An Allegory

Trevor Paglen


Section Three: From close to remote

The Pain of Love: The Invention of Aerial Surveillance in British Iraq

Priya Satia

Targeting Affective Life From Above: Morale and Airpower

Ben Anderson

Ecologies of the Wayward Drone

Jordan Crandall

Satellite Images, Security and the Geopolitical Imagination

David Campbell

Along with sorting out the final edits we are currently aligning the imagery. Jordan Crandall’s chapter will have some nice ones from his collection and live performances and there are other atmospheric imagery in Klaus Dodds’ chapter on the Falkland Islands Dependency Aerial Survey Expedition in the late 50’s, James Robinson’s on civil camouflage during the 40’s, and Paul K. Saint-Amour’s chapter on aerial imagery of New York. I am currently helping to arrange some pictures to illustrate Priya Satia’s wonderful chapter titled ‘The Pain of Love: The Invention of Aerial Surveillance in British Iraq’ – if I get the chance I’ll profile more of these essays in coming weeks (Derek Gregory’s, for instance, became the subject of a recorded conversation with Derek, colleagues and RHUL postgraduate students, which will soon feature with Theory, Culture and Society – so much more on that). Satia’s chapter rests on the argument that the burgeoning use of Air Control in Iraq during the twenties and thirties relied upon a particular imagining of the desert sublime from the British Arabists’ wartime adventures. The military permissiveness of bombing came from a romantic imagining of a mysterious and magical land, existing somewhere “beyond the pale of worldly and bourgeois convention, a place of perennial conflict and the violent emotions it unleashed”. We are hoping to use some of Sydney Carline’s stunning visuals mentioned by Alan Ingram last year, and some daunting aerial photography (see below).

Possibly the hardest image was the front cover however (see top image). In the end we’ve gone for a very fitting Neil Perkins’ ‘In the Cat’s Blister’, an image Flight Magazine reviewed when it was shown in an exhibition of War Pictures in 1942 at the National Gallery. For Flightthe painting “captured the excitement that lives in the turret with the air gunner”. I’ll post the final cover design when its ready.


2 thoughts on “From Above

  1. Pingback: Predator Sublime | rhulgeopolitics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s