Without the people from Pakistan’s Tribal Areas to narrate the visual evidence, one wouldn’t necessarily know what one was looking at in the photos or videos of the aftermath of drone attacks. To tell their stories, they had moved through a territory pockmarked by bombs and checkpoints and drones and troops and fighters, but to those sitting in Islamabad or New York or London, these things signified that the territory was “wild” and its people therefore probably faithless. The doubt was unequally distributed, and the judgment was always made against the backdrop of a relentless distrust. A bitter pill: they endured the containment zone, but their experiences of it rendered the testimonies of their experiences unstable. As they were made mute, the forensic experts were called in to make objects speak.
The Ground Was Always in Play
Madiha Tahir is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University researching the spatial politics of (drone) warfare. She is the recipient of the Wenner-Gren dissertation fieldwork grant. She is the director of Wounds of Waziristan (2013), a short documentary on survivors of drone attacks and the coeditor of an edited volume of essays, Dispatches from Pakistan (2012). Tahir cofounded Tanqeed (tanqeed.org), a bilingual digital zine that publishes critical essays by academics and journalists, with Mahvish Ahmad.