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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Elke Schwarz, BBA (Belmont University, USA), MA (King’s College London), PhD (LSE)


Senior Lecturer in Political Theory

Room Number: Arts One, 2.06A
Office Hours: Tuesdays 10-11 (F2F) & Wednesday 11-12 am (online)


Prior to joining QMUL as Lecturer in Political Theory, Elke was Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester. After completing her PhD in at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), she also held positions as Teaching Fellow at University College London (UCL) and as Lecturer in International Relations at Anglia Ruskin University. Elke’s research focuses on the political and ethical implications of new technologies, with a focus on digital technologies and autonomous systems. In 2018, she published her monograph Death Machines: The Ethics of Violent Technologies. Her work has been published in Thesis Eleven, Security Dialogue, Millennium Journal of International Studies, the Journal of International Political Theory and other journals. She has been awarded a BA/Leverhulme Small Grant for a project titled Moral agency and meaningful human control: Exploring military ethical values for alignment in the use of autonomous weapons systems. Elke is co-founder of the BISA Ethics and World Politics Working Group and an RSA Fellow.

Twitter: @elkeschwarz

Office hour joining link 


POL263 Modern Political Thought I

POL264 Modern Political Thought 2

POL303 Technology, Politics, War


Research Interests:

I am interested in new and emerging technologies, including cyber / digital technologies, autonomous technologies, artificial intelligence, human-machine interface technologies. The overarching question I ask is how and in what ways do scientific technological rationales and apparatuses shape our knowledge, desires, practices and ways of thinking about politics, security, violence and ethics. This research currently extends in three interlinked directions:

The first is funded by the British Academy / Leverhulme Small Grants scheme and focuses on the role of moral agency and meaningful human control for the use of autonomous weapons systems, colloquially known as ‘Killer Robots’. The project explores the role ethical values and moral agency play for technologically advanced militaries, as weapons systems become increasingly more automated and autonomous. This is a small exploratory project which I am hoping to refine and roll out into a bigger, non-military investigation about ethical values and human control with AI for social, political and economic contexts.

The second strand of research looks more specifically at the possibility for political and ethical agency vis-à-vis Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. Here I explore the narrative frames with which the utility of AI is presented and aim to situate our assumed relationship with the technological system more clearly to better understand the effects of digital and algorithmic power structures on the shaping of political and ethical knowledge, practices and modes of accountability.

As a third and overarching research aim, I tackle the conceptual question of ethics in politics more directly. Here I think through the implications of technological modes of agency and decision making, problematizing frames of ‘practical’ ethical thinking prevalent in computational practice as well as in politics today.

My previous research has centred on the nexus between biopolitics and technology with a specific focus on the ethics of violent technologies, specifically new military capabilities such as drones and autonomous systems.

Examples of research funding:


British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant Award (GBP 8,464) ‘Moral agency and meaningful human control: Exploring military ethical values for alignment in the use of autonomous weapons systems – Project duration October 2017 – March 2019.



2018. Death Machines: The Ethics of Violent Technologies. Research monograph (Manchester University Press)

Peer Reviewed

2020. ‘Delegating moral responsibility in war: Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and Meaningful Human Control’, in Hanssen-Magnusen, H. and Vetterlein, A. (eds) IResponsibility in World Politics, a Handbook (London: Routledge) (forthcoming 2020/21) ·

2020. ‘Silicon Valley Goes to War: Artificial Intelligence, Weapon Systems and Moral Agency’. Philosophy Today (forthcoming)

2019. ‘Günther Anders in Silicon Valley: Artificial Intelligence and moral atrophy’, Thesis Eleven 153(1): 94-112.

2018. ‘Flesh and Steel: antithetical materialities in the war on terror’. Critical Studies on Terrorism. Vol. 11, No. 2: 394-413.

2018. 'Technology and moral vacuums in just war theorising', Journal of International Political Theory, online first 6 January 2018.

2016. Prescription drones: On the techno-biopolitical regime of contemporary ethical killing. Security Dialogue, 47(1): 59-75.

2014. @hannah_arendt: An Arendtian critique of online social networks. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 43(1): 165-86.

Other Recent Publications 

2020. ‘Humanity-centric AI for Armed Conflict: A Contradiction in Terms?’ AI and Machine Learning Symposium, OpinioJuris 30 April 2020.

2020. Book Review: Attachments to War: Biomedical Logics and Violence in 21st Century America, by Jennifer Terry. The Journal of Military History 84(2).

2020. ‘Silicon Valley zieht in den Krieg: Künstliche Intelligenz und Moralische Verkümmerung’. FifFkon Kommunikation 37(1): 48-51.

2020. ‘Death Machines: Artificial Intelligence and the Ethics of Autonomous Weapons The Ethical Record Quarterly 125(2): 9-11

2019. ‘Sie Kommen. Autonome Waffen und algorithmische Kriegsführung sind auf dem Vormarsch.’ Süddeutsche Zeitung. Feuilleton. Essays on Artificial Intelligence, 14 October, 2019.

2019. ‘No matter how big, data is dumb’. A Special Forum: Big Data and the rise of the digital in international governance. In Essays and Provocations, Big Data & Society Blog, 26 January 2019.

2018. ‘The (im)possibility of meaningful human control for autonomous weapons systems’, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Humanitarian Law & Policy Blog, August 29, 2018.

2018. ‘If AI is the answer, what is the question?’ contribution to LSE Ideas Forum ‘Crisis of Global Politics: Perspectives from Continental Philosophy’. Report

2017. ‘Hybridity and humility: What of the human in (post)humanity?’ in Eroukhmanoff and Harkers (eds) Reflections on the Posthuman in International Relations: The Anthropocene, Security and Ecology, E-IR Edited Collections.

2017 'Pursuing Peace: The strategic limits of drone warfare'. An INS special forum: Intelligence and drones. Intelligence and National Security 32(4): 422-425.

2016. All means, no end? Economies of life management. Forum on Patricia Owen’s book Economies of Force. The Disorder of Things, 7 January 216




I currently co-supervise the following projects:

Marija Antanaviciute: How to study international ethics: analysing global responsibility as a practice through ethical judgements in international humanitarian organisations

Nawaf Alessa: The impact of cyberterrorism on Saudi critical information infrastructure and its implications for national security

Nika Mahnič: Automation and responsibility in a digital welfare state

I am interested in supervising PhD projects on:

  • Digital / algorithmic technologies, including Artificial Intelligence
  • Ethics of Technology
  • Ethics of War
  • Drones and autonomous weapons systems
  • Posthumanism / transhumanism
  • Modern political thought / continental political philosophy
  • Art and politics

Public Engagement

Recent Media:

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Feuilleton (Germany): Sie Kommen. Autonome Waffen und algorithmische Kriegsführung sind auf dem Vormarsch

Metro: ‘Far more than surveillance’ is already in place and ‘cyberocracy’ could change how government is run.

Al Jazeera, The Stream: Will Killer Robots Save Us or Destroy Humanity?

Time Magazine – Interviewee: A Global Arms Race for Killer Robots is Transforming the Battlefield:

NGOs, think tanks and initiatives I am involved in:

The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC)

PAX International

Drone Wars UK

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drones

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