Comparative American Studies: Feldman, Empire’s Verticality

The Af/Pak Frontier, Visual Culture, and Racialization from Above


Keith P. Feldman

“Empire’s Verticality: The Af/Pak Frontier, Visual Culture, and Racialization from Above,”
Comparative American Studies, Vol. 9, No. 4, Dec.  2011, pp. 325-41.


With the growing use of armed drones by the US homeland security state, the nexus of race, space, and visuality has developed a vector of verticality, what I call ‘racialization from above’, to supplement the long history of racialization on the ground, both in the United States and abroad. Taking the killing of Osama Bin Laden as a point of departure, this article considers how racialization from above transmutes the temporality of warfare through notions of pre-emption and endurance, recalibrates Orientalist imagined geography through recast concepts of proximity, and fixates on the capacity for ‘precision targeting’ along the borders of US imperial cartography. While doing so reveals how the raciality of the war on terror is produced through visual technologies, the article concludes by speculating briefly on how a counter-archive might enable us to see otherwise.

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