Abstract

This essay uses the theoretical lens of biolegitimacy to advance rhetorical criticism on contemporary drone warfare. As coined by anthropologist Didier Fassin, biolegitimacy describes the emergent preference for “life itself” under humanitarianism. Recasting biolegitimacy as a rhetorical achievement illuminates the strategies by which the United States accrues biolegitimacy for its drone program. In official White House rhetorics, the remotely piloted aircraft that strike over nonrecognized theaters of war, such as Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, are packaged in the “saving lives” logic of biolegitimacy. After exploring three rhetorical strategies of official drone rhetorics for achieving biolegitimacy, I suggest that drones themselves act as key distributors of biolegitimate social worth in the War on Terror.

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