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Heathcote, Gina (2018) 'War’s Perpetuity: Disabled Bodies of War and the Exoskeleton of Equality.' Australian Feminist Law Journal, 44 (1). pp. 71-91.

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This paper responds to battlefield technologies that enhance the endurance and capacities of the wearer, known as exoskeletons. Following the argument that exoskeleton technology is set to provide equality for bodies on the battlefield in the near future, I look at how both law and war construct and continually re-deploy a male body as the standard form of materiality within a deeply embedded masculine subjectivity. As such, the male body provides a persistent indicator of what it means to be human. Assistive technologies, such as exoskeletons, work to render female bodies ‘closer’ to male capabilities in armed conflict situations. At the same time, the maiming of male bodies in conflict can be charted as a persistent outcome of armed conflict that has received scant attention within the study of the gendered effects of armed conflict. War’s production of the disabled male body has also led to significant developments with respect to assistive technologies, via the work of, in particular, the US military. I argue that the investment of the US military into the development of exoskeletons, when understood alongside the US military’s investment in assistive mobility technologies for returned soldiers, raises questions about the futility of creating technology only to perpetuate the existence of the battlefield. Far from a project built on gender equality goals, investment in exoskeleton technology seemingly underlines the manner in which the male body of war will increasingly be able to return to the battlefield, to be maimed and to be restored in perpetuity. I conclude by arguing exoskeletons should be used to reimagine subjectivity, via debility, with a mindfulness of the material effects and underlying philosophical traces within subjectivity. I argue for a shift in approaching subjectivity via an intersectional and post-human model, rather than a legal subject that perpetuates modernist man, that promotes a thin understanding of gender equality or deploys exoskeletons as a tool for the destructive impulses of armed conflict.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Departments and Subunits > Interdisciplinary Studies > Centre for Gender Studies
ISSN: 13200968
Copyright Statement: © 2018 Australian Feminist Law Journal Inc. This is the accepted verion of an article published by Taylor and Francis in Australian Feminist Law Journal on 01 Aug 2018:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2018 09:03

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