South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Frontier from on high: Aerial survey and surveillance in North-West Frontier Province, 1916-36

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Cypress, New Building

In a 1927 pedagogical manual, Reconnaissance Survey from Aircraft, Lieutenant-Colonel GA Beazeley appraised: “when in the air we have a pictorial representation of the ground below us similar to a map spread out on a table, and as the country passes under us we can draw in freehand […] [as if we were] being slowly dragged along the floor close to our chair.” Drawing on the experience of aerial reconnaissance from the western theaters of WWI, Beazeley was making a case for the topographical specificities of the frontier of colonial India that conditioned the British aviatic approach to surveilling the tribesmen. For this panel, I propose a paper that investigates the technopolitics of aerial surveys fashioned by the Royal Air Force in North-West Frontier Province, during and after WWI. With limited territorial access to the forbidding frontier, the airplane, an airborne panopticon, I argue, occasioned knowing the enemy and his terrain through a detached and objective vision. Taking a cue from Le Corbusier’s The Aircraft, that aerial vision indicts terrestrial objects, I will examine the aviatic reconstruction of the imaginary of frontier. Besides the pedagogy of aerial observation, I will analyze the narratives of aerial expeditions and sorties; aerial sketch-mapping and photographs; and notes made by grounded aviators held captive by the tribesmen to illustrate the airborne imperial frontier governmentality of the interwar years. 

Joppan George

Princeton University, United States

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2 - Frontier from on high: Aerial survey and surveillance in North-West Frontier Province, 1916-36



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