It is not surprising that Dr Derek Gregory takes such an interest in ‘drones’ since he is a human drone (the unarmed version)! The gaze of Gregory, currently the Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia, never stops searching out new lines of inquiry, formulating new ideas and concepts, all underpinned by a passionate concern to understand not just ‘human geography’ but the human condition, principally through the prism of transformations in modern war.
Hard on the heels of his fascinating investigation into the use and control of space on the Western Front in the First World War titled ‘Gabriel’s Map’ that references a quote from William Boyd’s novel ‘The Ice Cream War’, Dr Gregory is about to unfurl another equally fascinating project, ‘The Natures of War’.
By blending poetry and prose, paintings and videos, Dr Gregory presents Nature not simply as a terrain over which conflicts rage, but as a medium through which they are conducted.
To develop his line of inquiry Dr Gregory has taken four examples of war in ‘extreme’ geography: the ‘slimescapes’ of mud on the Western Front in the First World War; the North African deserts in the Second World War; the ‘jungle’ of the Vietnam War; and the Arctic and its current militarisation.
In each case Nature is presented as the medium that transformed the very nature of the ‘conflict’ often treated in military culture as an adversary as dangerous as the human enemy. However, to the side that uses Nature as an ally, such as the North Vietnamese fighting the United States or the Finns taking on the Russians in the Winter War (1940-41) to name but two examples, rich dividends can accrue. Jasper Humphreys.