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Sensing, territory, population : computation, embodied sensors, and hamlet control in the Vietnam War.

Belcher, Oliver (2019) 'Sensing, territory, population : computation, embodied sensors, and hamlet control in the Vietnam War.', Security dialogue., 50 (5). pp. 416-436.

Abstract

This article analyses a mid-20th century computerized pacification reporting system, the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES), used by the US military to measure hamlet-level security and development trends in the Vietnam War. The significance of the HES was its capacity to translate US Military Advisor observations of Vietnamese hamlet life into a machine-readable format used by US military systems analysts to disclose ‘patterns of life.’ I show how US Military Advisors operated as ‘embodied sensors’ within the HES, producing a distinctive location-based event ontology – a ‘view of below’ – accompanied by rudimentary digital maps in-formation from incoming hamlet-level observation streams. I argue that acts of translating the rich texture of hamlet and village life into an objectified information format constituted a unique form of ‘epistemic violence,’ rooted not so much in the narrative subjection of the ‘Other,’ but in the pure abstraction of life into a digitally stored data trace.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010619862447
Publisher statement:Belcher, Oliver (2019). Sensing, territory, population: Computation, embodied sensors, and hamlet control in the Vietnam War. Security Dialogue 50(5): 416-436. Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). DOI: 10.1177/0967010619862447
Date accepted:11 April 2019
Date deposited:14 August 2019
Date of first online publication:05 August 2019
Date first made open access:14 August 2019

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