Ecologies of Empire: On the New Uses of the Honeybee: Supplemental Material

This post builds on the research article “Ecologies of Empire: On the New Uses of the Honeybee,” which was published in the November 2010 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.

"Honeybees." November 2010 via Jake Kosek.

Editorial Footnotes

Cultural Anthropology has published other essays on militarization and its cultural and technological effects. See, for example, Joseph Masco's “'Survival is Your Business': Engineering Ruins and Affect in Nuclear America” (2008), Daniel Hoffman's “The City as Barracks: Freetown, Monrovia, and the Organization of Violence in Postcolonial African Cities” (2007), Joseph Masco's “Mutant Ecologies: Radioactive Life in Post–Cold War New Mexico” (2004), and Lesley Gill's “Creating Citizens, Making Men: The Military and Masculinity in Bolivia” (1997).

Relevant Reading

Arquilla, John and David Ronfeldt. Swarming and the Future of Conflict. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2000.

Rand Corporation, "Swarming and the Future of Conflict." 2000.

Editorial Overview

In the November 2010 issue of Cultural Anthropology, Jake Kosek examines the rise of the honeybee as both tool and metaphor in the United States “war on terror” through multi-sited and multi-species ethnography. He defines the project as a “political entomology” – and, more broadly, a critical natural history – sensitive to the dynamic and entangled relationships between humans and bees over time. These relationships, Kosek argues, are multidirectional: projects of human empire like agribusiness and warfare have shaped the bee itself, altering its physiology and social life, while bees themselves have been enrolled in empire building projects, actively participating in reshaping human life. Drawing on interviews with scientists and other materials, Kosek’s essay shows how bees have served as material, metaphor, and model for recent US military projects under the Bush and Obama administrations. The bee, it turns out, has been identified as particularly useful for espionage and anti-terrorism purposes. For example, they have been trained to forage for landmines rather than food. Meanwhile, bees’ collective behavior – especially “swarming” – has been increasingly recognized by military strategists as a useful model for the forms of flexible, adaptive, collective responses desired in decentralized modern warfare.