Robotic settler colonialism: Ali Hisham Musleh, To What Abyss Does This Robot Take the Earth: On the Automation of Settler Colonialism in Palestine, PhD dissertation, University of Hawai’i, 2023


Abstract: How do weapons make the colonial worlds that Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis inhabit? My dissertation attends to this question starting from an experience shared by Palestinians: that the majority of us have never encountered an Israeli settler, whether in uniform or out of uniform, who is not attached to a weapon, be it an assault rifle, a fighter jet, or a tank, etc. Taking this experience as a philosophical provocation, I subject the settler colony to a form of insurgent study exercised everyday by Palestinians that confronts the settler as contingent and transitory human-weapon ensembles. These studies are bodying and worlding. They reveal and unravel the spatialized embodiments, sensations, affective terrains, orientations and regimes of truth that weapons generate as lived world(s) of experience. In doing so, Palestinians exercise a fleshy sociality that constantly puts into question the self-evidence of the settler and the settler state.Thinking with Palestinians and alongside peoples of struggle, my dissertation is a performance in reverse engineering that moves from micrological sites, scenes and bodies of war, to macro formations of sovereignty. My itinerary focuses primarily on encounters with remote and robotic weaponry as technologies of engineering spatial and procedural distance between the settler and weapon. My task has been to show how that distance became the abyssal site from which forms of war, apartheid, and erasure emerge that consign settlers to martial automatisms that materialize and mediate their existence. The result is a work that dissects settler colonialism as a form of life inseparable from weapon power, as I also consider Palestinian rehearsals of decolonial life in the robotic age of war.

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