War: Keyword for English 242, Literature of Endless War, University of Washington, Spring 2012
This course is a survey of literature in times of ‘endless war’. While the texts often do not take place on the battlefield, the backdrop and discourse of war shapes all of the fictional and non-fictional happenings. The course locates and divides, though not very neatly, through space, time, and event: we begin with Algeria during the anti-colonial revolution of the early 1960s, move to Palestine and the massacres of Sabra and Shatila in the early 1980s, and conclude with the present Global War on Terror. Through practices of reading, discussing, and writing on assigned texts, we will consider colonial and anti-colonial violence, the work of women in the ‘endless war’, modes of resistance, changing definitions of freedom, the unknowable terrorist figure, and the representations of warring subjects.
Furthermore, we will focus primarily on the novel, though films, visual art, theoretical writing, and critical thought will be considered. Our tentative list of works includes: on Algeria--Assia Djebar’s Children of the New World, Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers, and Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth; on Palestine--Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun; and on the Global War on Terror--Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, the visual art of Daisy Rockwell and Fernando Botero, and the critical writing of Jasbir Puar and Junaid Rana.
Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers
Assia Djebar, Children of the New World *
Frantz Fanon, "Concerning Violence" (from The Wretched of the Earth)
Elias Khoury, Gate of the Sun *
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent *
Daisy Rockwell, The Little Book of Terror
Jasbir Puar, "The Turban is not a Hat" (from Terrorist Assemblages)
Junaid Rana, "The Story of Islamophobia"
The * denotes a text to be purchased.
About the Instructor
This class is instructed by Balbir K. Singh, PhD Candidate in the Department of English at the University of Washington. She is currently working on her dissertation on race, militarism, and the security and insecurity of the West in the modern world, tentatively titled "Militant Bodies: Race, Terror, & Endless War". In it, she critiques orientalism and global imperial force in order to disentangle South and Southwest Asian racialization both in the U.S. and globally. She is also a current Simpson Center Public Scholarship Fellow.
Keyword as Method
Taking a “keywords” approach to our mode of inquiry, students will develop close textual analyses of these literary and cultural texts, grounding them in their various social and historical contexts. In taking up these texts, the course will be framed by—and students will produce—a constellation of “keywords.” A keyword, as editors Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler note in Keywords for American Cultural Studies, is a “term that marks a site of significant contestation and disagreement, not consensus. Keywords reward repeated exploration and reflection because debates and research about culture and society can be enhanced—rather than settled or shut down—by an increased understanding of the genealogies of their structuring terms and the conflicts embedded in differing and even contradictory uses of those terms.”
Each Thursday there will be a group presentation based on the Keywords of the week, and the group must prepare a Keyword-based presentation that propels and opens up discussion of the primary text of the week.
Any discussion of the use of “war” as a term in U.S. culture must also recognize the plethora of words that surround it. Even when “war” itself is not used, its resonant vocabularies are ubiquitous and often create oppositional or binary structures that disable nuanced and critical thinking about complex issues. Whether in sports, politics, corporate takeovers, relationships, or television ratings, the language of “war” permeates U.S. culture: battle, conflict, combat, hostility, collateral damage, attack, surgical strike, victory, soldier, enemy, and so on. One of the clearest indications of the pervasiveness of this vocabulary is its commonplace acceptance in everyday usage, with few people even recognizing the references to “war” in using such terms.
Excerpt, Susan Jeffords, Keywords for American Cultural Studies, p. 238.
War & Colonialism
On Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers
by Chris Madani, Bennie Parayil, Michelle Tonneslan
April 5, 2012
The birth of colonialism began with the Age of Discovery in the 15th century. European countries began to expand westward and colonized the Americas, Middle East, coasts of Africa, India, East Asia, all along the way. However, this paper will focus on the colonization of Algeria by the French. Although the Oxford English Dictionary, defines colonialism as “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically”, we feel that this definition should also include forced culture assimilation, which played a large role in the colonization of Algeria and was a contributing factor in Algeria's war with France.
“War”, according to Susan Jeffords, is defined as a state of armed conflicted between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state. She also suggests that the term war can be used to define non-armed conflicts as well. This paper will focus on both the armed conflicts and the unarmed conflicts associated with Algeria's war for independence. Because violence plays such a large part in war, we will also be focusing on violence that occurred between Algerians and the French.
In their article, “Theorizing Violence in the 21st Century”, Lawrence and Karim give us a vague interpretation of the word violence which not only encompasses physically violent acts but also non-physically violent acts used to inflict harm on another group, such as the acts taken by Gandhi, while protesting against the English colonization of India. They also point out whether or not an act is considered violent, is largely contextual. This paper will also focus on the contextual aspect of violence when analyzing the Algerian struggle for independence.
The French invaded Algeria in 1830 which culminated in a war victory for the French in 1847. After this occurrence, the French sent many of their own citizens to colonize Algeria. These people represented over one million in total and almost four hundred thousand in Algiers (Dingeman 50). They are referred to as “les pieds-noirs,” by Saadi Yacef, a major contributor in the making of the film Battle of Algiers, and a prominent figure in the Algerian revolution.
The Battle of Algiers was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, a former member of the Italian Communist Party and leader of the Italian anti-fascist resistance from 1943-1945. This film tells the story of the French colonization of Algeria during the 1950s and focuses on the conflicts between the French and the Front de Libération Nationale, an Algerian organization dedicated to the liberation of Algeria also known as the National Liberation Front or the FLN.
In addition to fighting against the French the FLN also encouraged Algerians to fight against the French culture that was being forced upon them. As a result of French colonization, alcohol use and prostitution became prevalent in Algiers, even though these practices conflicted with Algerian cultural values. To counteract this, the FNL encouraged the Algerian's to employ tactics that could be perceived as violent. This is symbolized in the film when one of the main revolutionaries, Ali Le Pointe, kills his friend for distributing alcohol and when a group of children beat up an Algerian man for being intoxicated.
This film illustrates both the violence inflicted on Algerians by the French and violence that the Algerians used against the French. As Lawrence and Karim pointed out in their article “Theorizing Violence in the 21st Century”, context plays a key role in what is perceived as violence. From the FLN's perspective, the French were the enemy and all violence inflicted on them was out of retaliation. However, because they had been in Algeria for 130 years, les pieds-noirs felt entitled to remain in Algeria, and were willing to fight to keep this right. This is illustrated in the film when Colonel Mathieu makes the statement, “I’ll ask you a question myself: Should France stay in Algeria? If the answer is still yes, you’ll have to accept all the necessary consequences.”
Although 90% of les pieds-noirs supported the colonization of Algeria, the rest of France was politically torn on the so called “Algerian question.” There were even activist groups such as the Comitè Pour la Paix en Algèrie whose sole purpose was to fight for the liberation of Algeria. Prominent French artists such as Raymon Hains even created art devoted to promoting the liberation of Algeria. However, although the Algerians did have support from many French citizens, it is undeniable that Algerians themselves are responsible for wining their independence from France. In the Battle of Algiers, Ben Mhidi made the statement “Acts of violence don't win wars, nor revolutions.” Although physical violence is necessary in a struggle against subjugation, history has shown that regimes are usually toppled through acts that are not physically violent such as protests and general strikes. This was illustrated in Russia's February Revolution of 1917 (Trotsky 302) and more currently the Arab Spring revolutions which started in December of 2010.
The strike tactic used by Algerians, which eventually led to the Algerian revolution, not only affected Algerian activist, but inspired activist around the world. The most salient example of this is the largest general strike in French history, which occurred only six years after the Algerian revolution, involving over 11,000,000 workers, and nearly resulting in a collapse of the French government. Still to this day over a half of a century later, the example of the Algerian resistance is used by activist organization around the world as a model for how revolutions are won. The historical impact of the Algerian revolution is undeniable.
Work Cited Dingeman, J. “’You Cannot Continually Inflict’: An Interview with Saadi Yacef.” Framework: The Journal of Cinema & Media 49.2. 2008. 48-64 Lawrence, Bruce, and Aisha Karim. "On Violence: A Reader (Paperback) Edited by Bruce B. Lawrence, Edited by Aisha Karim." Duke University Press. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. The Battle of Algiers. Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo. Igor Film, 1967. Film Trotsky, L. 302. The History of the Russian Revolution. London: Gollancz, 1933. 1-1040. Print.
Women & Revolution
On Assia Djebar's Children of the New World
by Gayoung Bae, Ngan Nguyen, Kelly Shontell, Allen Sy
April 12, 2012
The colonization of the Middle East by Western Countries inevitably promotes nationalism and revolution as the oppressed begin to fight against their subjugators. In 1830, the French invaded Algerian lands, and then in 1954 the conflict between French colonialism and Algerian nationalism progressed into the Algerian revolution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines revolution as a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system. This paper will focus on the juxtaposition of the defiance of Algerian women against social norms and the revolution against France’s colonization of Algeria in Assia Djebar’s Children of the New World. Assia Djebar utilizes the backdrop of the Algerian revolution as an instrument to illustrate the circumstances of war that instigate an individual revolution within each character against Algerian social paradigms.
The colonization and oppression of Algeria by France reflect the gender norms that are established in Algerian culture. Throughout history, women are thought of as inferior to men and are bound to many traditions and responsibilities that tie them with family obligation. They are expected to be the obedient domestic housewives who care for the children and remain submissive to their husbands. This concept of female inferiority remains evident in Vijay Prashad’s keyword essay, “Orientalism”. In Prashad’s essay the many negative stereotypes associated with orientalism are additionally linked to women. The descriptions of the east as “slothful, static, childlike, and feminine,” can be used to reflect the views of women within a male dominant society (174-5). Prashad argues, “orientalist discourse provided a useful justification for colonialism” (174-5). These same stereotypes are utilized as a justification for female oppression. One must be cognizant of these particular stereotypes and expectations of Algerian women in order to understand the women’s defiance against these norms during the Algerian Revolution in Djebar’s novel.
The men of Algeria participated in the planning and implementation of the violent and physical revolt against the French colonization. At the same time, the women of Algeria revolted and defied the social and cultural norms that were set upon them. Djebar’s novel focuses on Algerian women, ranging from classical housewives to young rebels and outcasts of society, who are drawn into the gender politics of the revolution. For example, Cherifa is forced to remain obedient and live with a husband whom she cannot stand. When Cherifa’s husband sexually advances upon her she “turns her back on him [and] flees” (Djebar 13). Algerian society expects Cherifa to be submissive to her husband’s advances but Cherifa resists and defies the social expectations of a wife that have kept Algerian women in their domestic space for years. Whether defying their social duties as a wife or intentionally challenging the will of the society, the women in Children of the New World participate in the defiance against their male dominant society and move towards gender equality.
Djebar cleverly portrays the psychological battle occurring within each female character through their various experiences in the Algerian war. In Algerian society the concept of an independent women remains aberrant as family and dependent on a man typically surround women. For example, when Lila is taken to jail she says, “I’m alone, that I’ve been living alone, without even the usual ghosts of customary solitude” (Djebar 196). Lila’s husband Ali leaves her behind to join the revolution, forcing her to live as an independent woman without a husband and family. Lila’s independence remains a deviation from social norms and is indicative of the individual female revolution against the paradigm of gender norms in Algeria.
Djebar displays the consequences of the Algerian war on society and its people through the identities and experiences of the characters in her novel. At times the women may appear weak and permissive, but they remain consistently strong and admirable throughout the novel. The defiance of Algerian women against social norms can be seen as a direct consequence of the Algerian revolution against the French colonialism. Djebar utilizes the Algerian revolution to illustrate the circumstances of war that allow individual revolution to occur within each character.
Works Cited Djebar, Assia. Children of the New World. New York: The Feminist Press, 2005. Prashad, Vijay. "Orientalism". Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.
Violence & Decolonization
On Frantz Fanon's "Concerning Violence"
by Stanley Biryukov, Jeffrey Jiun Chen, Hyun Soo Lee, Alex Podschwit
April 23, 2012
The Oxford English Dictionary defines decolonization as the withdrawal from its former colonies of a colonial power; the acquisition of political or economic independence by such colonies. Furthering the definition of decolonization, Frantz Fanon claims that decolonization results in the liberation of the native psyche. For Fanon, violence is a tool—one that is legitimized by its results as it creates “new men” (36). These “new men” utilize violence to obtain a common national goal. Also, because colonialism is “violence in its natural state”, it must be met with a “greater violence” (61). Fanon justifies the use of violence for three main reasons. First, it “unifies the people” against a common oppressor (94). Second, on an individual level, it acts as a “cleansing force”, freeing “the native from his inferiority complex” and restoring “his self respect” (94). Third, it results in the “creation of new men” (36). Fanon’s ideas are embodied in the Algerian revolution, where organized terrorism successfully led to popular Arab resistance against French rule and eventual independence.
Fanon’s work begins with discussion of the exportation of western values that create foreign class structures in this “colonized” society. These structures result in “muscular tension” resulting in destructive individual conflict and tribal warfare (54). In addition, Fanon describes the separatist nature of colonialism by its very nature, and how it severs community relationships for the natives (94). This colonial society that the settler and the native occupy in Fanons novel is one that is a Manichaestic one, full of two exclusive worlds. These societies exist as polar opposites of one another. The settler embodies pure and diving morals, while the native maintains the “negation of values” (41). He advocates the use of violence to serve as a unifying force by attempting to remove these separatist structures through violent means, and by unifying the natives against a common goal. Furthermore, in The Battle of Algiers, the viewer sees the emergence of unity through violence in the initiation of Ali. The solidifying force that ensures the FLN’s trust of Ali is through the attempted assassination of a French policeman. As a result of Ali’s commitment to follow through with the FLN’s orders regardless of violence cements the FLN’s belief in Ali as a brother and member of the resistance. Finally, the vocabulary of struggle continues beyond decolonization as the people continue their “fight against poverty, illiteracy, and underdevelopment” (94). Fanon’s essay advocates for the use of violence as a unifying force for the people instead of engaging in frivolous separatist tribal violence.
Additionally, Fanon mentions how decolonization is simply putting the saying, “The last shall be first and the first last,” into practice (37). Due to colonial rule, the natives were placed into a lower class without basic rights or appreciation. Thus, only through decolonization do these “new men” the natives get the rights that were stripped away from them back. Further Fanon argues, in the process of decolonization the natives “becomes man during the same process by which it frees itself.” (37). Fanon claims that placing “the first last” is the reason why “all decolonization is successful” (37). Fanon views “success” as a class inversion by giving the natives the rights that were stripped away from them as a result of colonization. Additionally, the native sees violence as the only tool that must be used to regain these lost rights. Fanon alludes to benefits decolonization by stating, “decolonization is the veritable creation of new men”, which introduces a new language and a new humanity for these oppressed individuals (36). Fanon’s pointed attack against colonialism demonstrates that the removal of colonial powers creates these “new men”.
Finally, violence gives the innocent the power to eradicate the unjust forces that disturbed the peace of the natives and allows them to free themselves from the oppression and depression that the settlers brought upon them through violent colonization. According to Fanon, the colonized internalize an “inferiority complex”; they “represent not only the absence of values, but also the negation of values” (41). Consequently, the settlers impede unity between the colonized and the colonizers through force in order to prevent the mingling between their divine pure values and the native’s demoralized and animal like ones. For the native, “life can only spring up again out of the rotting corpse of the settler”. Hence, the only way for the native to develop self-respect is through the violent overthrown of the colonial power. The settlers had dehumanized the natives, turning them into “animals” (42). But once the native discovers his “humanity” and equality to the colonizer does he begins to “sharpen weapons” (43). With their weapons, the natives can then bring protection and justice to their people.
Fanon's argument that violence is necessary for decolonization is difficult to disprove. Europeans colonizers have historically inflicted unimaginable pain on indigenous populations. Today, "the wealth which smothers [Europe] is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples" (102). Without violent and popular resistance, there would be no economic incentives for European nations to have decolonized foreign lands. To this extent, Fanon legitimizes violence to initiate decolonization in that it will allow for the birth of new, and hopefully successful nation-states, ultimately raising the living standards of former subjugated populations. But Fanon also notes decolonization is not a means to an end. Europeans must "wake up" and realize that "their true interest lie in giving aid to the underdeveloped countries" as these emerging markets will be crucial in ensuring worldwide economic growth and prosperity (105-6).
Work Cited Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove, 1965. Print.
Nation & Attachment
On Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun
by Yasi Azodi, Jun Carrington, Jason Loo, Roberto Morales, Britta Perkins
April 26, 2012
In Elias Khoury’s novel Gate of the Sun, the Palestinian nation is in a constant battle with Israel to regain the territory they consider to be rightfully theirs. Their deep attachment to the land is compromised as that land is quickly disappearing from their grasp. Forced to become refugees, the Palestinians are left to redefine what and who exactly their nation is comprised of and how they can continue to keep the spirit of their cause alive. Over the process of losing their homeland, the Palestinians have attached themselves to each other as they have unified to band together and fight a common enemy. Long-term exile has expanded the Palestinians’ view of family to encompass the entire nation displaced by the conflict, in an effort to maintain hope for the future by continually protecting and keeping the next generation of Palestinians safe.
Exile forces the Palestinians to redefine their nation; though their land has been taken, they are still a unified people. Yunes says, “we have to eat every last orange in the world and not be afraid, because the homeland isn’t oranges. The homeland is us” (Khoury 25). The people, not the physical land, represent the importance of their nation. The loss of their land will not disrupt their cultural values or their precious memories. This unity brings them together as a national family, attached to one another, as represented by the bond shared between Khalil and Yunes. Khalil recalls Yunes’ words when he was just an orphaned boy. “You’ve lost your parents, and I’ve lost my children. Come and be a son to me” (19). The backdrop of war and conflict allows Yunes to look past the lack of physical relations, and instead, treat his nation as family, and raise Khalil as his own. This familial attachment among the Palestine nation serves as a source of comfort. When Umm Hassan goes back to Palestine to view her old home, she is desperate to make a connection with a fellow Palestinian family member, asking the Israeli woman who speaks Arabic, “you’re an Arab, Sister-aren’t you?” (104) Despite her better judgment when confronted with an Israeli woman, Umm Hassan is so eager to be comforted by a fellow Palestinian, a sister who will understand what she has been through. The continuing war has forced the Palestinians to create family ties through the values and memories that they shared with others, and these family bonds unite the Palestinians, symbolize the spirit of the war, and serve as the basis of national attachment.
These shared family experiences prompt the elders of the Palestinian nation to maintain hope through the survival of the next generation. Countless stories of the older generation reveal the selflessness with which they care for their greater family. When Umm Hassan stumbled upon Naji as a baby, lying beneath an olive tree near the side of the road, she “picked him up and fed him from her dry breasts, then returned him to his mother” (5). Despite the fact that Naji wasn’t her child, Umm Hassan felt compelled to care for this abandoned baby. He was a Palestinian boy, so he was family, and she cared for him until she could return Naji to his mother. Though Umm Hassan had already lost four children of her home, she was not motivated to keep and raise him herself. She only wanted to keep him safe. This act of selflessness reveals the deep attachment Palestinians have for another and the desire of the elder generation to give themselves fully to the cause by safely caring for the young children of the nation. In this same way, when Nahilah was mourning the loss of her first son, Ibrahim, she was unable to care for her second son. In order to keep the child alive, Umm Sab decided to “suckle him and keep him with her” (59). An unselfish gift to both Nahilah and Yunes’s mother, Umm Sab’s actions represent more than just a personal favor. Her actions demonstrate her role as an instrumental caregiver for the Palestinian children. Without the children, hope would be lost for the future, so Umm Sab continues to care for this deserted child, in an effort to keep him safe and able to carry on the hope of the Palestinian people. The elders of the nation are determined to keep the family safe by protecting and caring for the lost children.
The loss of land does not break the Palestinian nation. The presence of war cannot take away their cultural values, instead, it has the opposite effect. Conflict and the greater struggle for liberation has united the Palestinian people and given them a sense of identity in their greater family. Their previous attachment to the land has transformed into an increased attachment to each other, tethering the success of the nation to the triumph of the next generation. Representing the future of this family, Palestinian children are kept alive and safe through the efforts of the elders, in the hope they will continue to fight for the liberation of the Palestinian nation.
Work Cited Khoury, Elias. Gate of the Sun. Picador Reading Group Guides. New York, NY: 1998.
Mourning & Memory
On Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun
by Amar Kang, Alia Karmali, Jason Kim
May 3, 2012
In Elias Khoury’s novel Gate of the Sun, the character Khalil is desperately trying to revive his friend and spiritual father, Yunes, from a deep comatose state in the context of the Palestinian people trying to regain their territory from the Israelis. Khalil’s theory of revival includes the reminiscing of Palestinian mourning stories with Yunes, as he believes reliving these memories will wake Yunes from his inactive state. Similarly, through the recollection of these stories the spirit and culture of Palestine is kept alive. Thus, Yunes’s state is a metaphor for the collective disorientation of a people in their quest for home. Storytelling is employed as resistance to death, whereas mourning symbolizes the acceptance of the loss of the physical nation of Palestine. Gate of the Sun utilizes the recounting of powerful events and mourning to come to the realization that the Palestinian people are what truly define the country of Palestine.
Much of the novel is centralized on Yunes, whose comatose state compels Khalil to sit at his friend’s bedside and recount pivotal moments of the old freedom fighter’s life. The sheer volume and intensity of Khalil’s narration stresses and attempts to induce catharsis and physical revival from Yunes’ debilitated state. The coma of Yunes is evocative of the potential complacency or disarray of the nation of Palestine, a state that is ravaged and disoriented by endless fighting and violence. Khalil half believes that his exposition of his memories involving vivid and often painful experiences would bring Yunes back to life. He states, “Our body is our history, dear friend. Take a look at your history in your wasting body and tell me, wouldn’t it be better if you got up and shook off death?” (Khoury,159). Similarly, Khalil’s plea connotes a call to action for Palestine to revive itself by recalling its history and act on its desire for liberation. The experiences of the Palestinians, like the experiences of Khalil and Yunes, provide justification and motivation to remember their heritage and culture.
Khoury’s novel uses the stories of Palestine as an affront to unconsciousness and as an impediment to the death of Khalil’s fatherly figure Yunes. Khalil states, “I’m convinced that the soul has its own laws and that the body is a vessel for the soul. I’m trying to rouse you with my stories because I’m certain that the soul can, if it wants, wake a sleeping body” (Khoury, 159). Khalil half believes that the expression of these deep, powerful memories will bring Yunes back to life. As Yunes is representative of the nation of Palestine, storytelling is then a mechanism to keep it dynamic and existent. The journeys of the people and the hardships that they go through are told through stories, and represent what Palestine is, not the physical land where they once resided. This leads into the concept of rebirth, “a revival or renewal of a thing. A new beginning” (Oxford English Dictionary). Storytelling provides a pathway for the nation of Palestine to be reborn, a nation of people not constrained by physical boundaries, but by the institutions, cultures, and strengths that define them.
Although throughout the novel Khalil denies what is happening to Yunes, in the end, he accepts defeat and comes to the realization that storytelling is not going to revive Yunes from his deep coma. Khalil expresses this realization by stating, “I decided it was time for me to weep, mourn, to be unconsolable. I decided you were dead and that I'd go on with my life without you, without the hospital and without our stories, of which we've only told fractions” (530). By declaring that he is going to continue on with his life “without their stories” Khalil is letting go of the memories that by which the Palestinian community remember their land, homes and heritage. Thus, by mourning and accepting Yunes’ debilitated state, Khalil is also accepting the loss of the physical land of Palestine as theirs.
Through the process of storytelling, Khalil accesses a variety of memories that conjure powerful emotions, in the hopes that Yunes would be actively engaging in the past as well. Consequently, memory and recollection are integral to the relationship of Khalil and Yunes, just as they are integral to history and the Palestinian people’s claim to the land. Khalil hoped to harness the entwined relationship of memory and emotion to catalyze the physical revival of Yunes, which can be analogous to the hope of reviving Palestinian nationalism and patriotism in order to take back the land from Israeli control. However, as Yunes’ health shows no signs of recovery, Khalil resigns to a state of mourning, reflecting his acceptance for the loss of his friend and connoting the acceptance for the loss of land. Rather than being defined by the delineation of its borders, the nation of Palestine is defined by the inherent heritage and culture of its people.
Works Cited Khoury, Elias. Gate of the Sunxt. Brooklyn: Archipelago Books, 2006. Print. "rebirth, n.". OED Online. March 2012. Oxford University Press. 7 May 2012 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/159224?rskey=4hTfz0&result=1&isAdvanced=false>.
Terrorism & Anarchy
On Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent
by Loren Hart, Nathan Ho, Lindsey Naganuma, Ana Talavera
May 10, 2012
The novel, The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad is used as a common reference when discussing occurrences of terrorism and anarchy worldwide. In the novel, the main character, Mr. Verloc, works as a secret agent for a foreign embassy. The embassy’s new first secretary, Mr. Vladimir, charges Mr. Verloc with the task of blowing up an iconic location to the realm of science, the Greenwich Observatory. Mr. Verloc seeks the aid of his mentally disabled brother-in-law, Stevie, to help him with his mission. An unfortunate accident occurs and Stevie ends up blowing himself up. Mrs. Verloc, the wife of Mr. Verloc and the sister of Stevie, finds out that her brother is dead from a police officer but does not know how he died. When Mr. Verloc realizes that his wife knows that her brother is dead, he caves and tells her the truth about what happened. Once she hears the truth she murders him, and later commits suicide off of a channel boat. The keywords terrorism and anarchy play into the plot by shadowing all of the characters and their actions. As the novel progresses, the keywords have an important role in helping the reader understand the use of fear to gain political control.
Conrad depicts terrorism in Mr. Vladimir’s vision for a violent attack on the Greenwich Observatory. Mr. Vladimir says, “the demonstration must be against learning—science” (Conrad 25). Mr. Vladimir wants the anarchist group that Mr. Verloc participates in, The Future Proletariat, to take action rather than just producing pamphlets and make an impact on society to bring about change and reform. He believes that the only type of attack that will be successful is an attack on science which represents the education of the new society and the intellectual power of the nation. Mr. Vladimir is trying to explain to Mr. Verloc that a true act of terrorism is something that will impact all of London, since terrorism is an intimidation tactic used to manipulate society through fear and chaos. The newfound interest and connection to science makes it the most impactful target for a terrorist attack, because science is seen as a landmark. The importance of science is that it holds all the trust of the nation. It is the ultimate patriotic symbol of growth and power, which at that time reflected on the influence that England held over the rest of the world. The Greenwich Observatory was an iconic location known by intellectuals around the globe and its destruction would strike a massive blow to the heart of the educated community and the hearts of every Englishman that values the prestige of their country. The goal was to create an explosive event that would cause fear and mass confusion in the people of London so threatening to the government's stability and power that they would have to take action against the terror.
As the novel continues, Conrad talks about the Chief Inspector Heat who is the authoritative figure in the novel. He represents the government forces that lead the charge against anarchy. Chief Inspector Heat says: "The perfect anarchist was not recognized as a fellow creature by Chief Inspector Heat. He was impossible—a mad dog to be left alone. Not that the Chief Inspector was afraid of him; on the contrary, he meant to have him some day. But not yet; he meant to get hold of him in his own time, properly and effectively according to the rules of the game" (Conrad 101). Chief Inspector Heat’s view of anarchy is that of a monster, something that cannot be controlled. The only options available are to either kill it or let it run wild. He lets the anarchist run free, but once he has sufficient evidence he will kill it using the law, which is what the anarchist were fighting against. Without sufficient evidence, his attempt to bring down the anarchist movement would be futile. Anarchy is a lawless and complicated state of society that is uncomfortable with presence of the law or certain laws that may pass. It strives to disrupt the power of the law to free itself from the control of the government. Inspector Heat has to use the law to bring down anarchy because if he does not, he will simply be continuing the pattern of anarchistic behavior. The goal is to prove that government is a powerful force that can overcome the power of anarchy.
Terrorism is a catalyst that can be used to drive anarchy. However, in this novel terrorism and anarchy are linked in a way that allows terrorism to be used as a tool for political gain. For example, Mr. Vladimir encourages terrorist activities by the anarchists in order to cause a political change in the British government. The anarchists use terrorist attacks to continue their wave of chaotic social disorganization, but the original motivation for the bombing of the Greenwich Observatory was purely political. This is very similar to the way terror is seen in the current global War on Terror. Present day terrorism is highly organized, politically motivated, and also involves cultural and religious ties. Terrorists seek change in the world they live in to better match their beliefs and, in their eyes, improve society. Sometimes terrorist and anarchist groups believe so strongly in their cause, any violence that may result is completely justified. Terrorism is a tool often used by anarchists to further their non-political agendas, but not all terrorist actions are anarchistic, many terrorist attacks are made with very specific intentions with a specific political result in mind.
The novel provides many examples of terrorism and anarchy, and their effects on society as well as politics. Anarchy and terrorism are tools used to control the power shifts within in a nation and its political sphere. They are against organized structure, but end up creating its own unique structure or cause the government to reinforce its own structure to further benefit their political agenda. For example, in the global War on Terror, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States bolstered their military and defense spending, as well as their political resolve to combat anarchy. From this it can be seen that terrorism and anarchy are ever-present themes in society.
Work Cited Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. New York: Random House, 2004. Print.
Visuality & Terror
On Daisy Rockwell's The Little Book of Terror
by Bolun Du, Kyle Rae, Joseph Swan, Rory Zambard
May 17, 2012
Media, particularly visual media, plays a major role in shaping the understanding of events, individuals or ideas. How information is visually displayed directly impacts how it is received. This notion readily applies to the concepts of terror, terrorists and terrorism. Daisy Rockwell’s The Little Book of Terror challenges the average American’s view on terrorists by colorfully painting them as people first, stripping them of their current connotations such as inherently evil or extreme. Her work forces the viewer to reexamine their hatred of such figures, and reconsider the definition of terrorists as merely tools of destruction and war.
In her artwork Daisy Rockwell paints an image of terrorism through a lense not frequently used. Unlike most other forms of visual media, Rockwell portrays her subjects in a way similar to how they view themselves (iii Kumar). The perspective she offers the audience, in regards to depicting terrorists in the US’s current war on terror, is particularly important in reframing how the “enemy” is viewed. It allows a new light to be shed on popular misconceptions dictated by media and propaganda efforts.
In Rockwell’s book, The Little Book of Terror, she briefly outlines the life and alleged death of Ilyas Kashmiri. Kashmiri was accused of terrorism-- he collaborated with the Taliban, planned and attempted assassinations, and supposedly plotted an attack on president Obama. The title terrorist, within the definition of a person using violence or intimidation in pursuit of political aims-- with all of its ugly, negative and politically charged connotations, undoubtedly applies to Kashmiri. However, Rockwell manages to put him in a new light. Her painting shows Kashmiri just after his death, having been taking tea in an orchard. His head is severed, blood pouring from his neck, yet his glasses remain intact. His cup of tea is perfectly balanced next to him, not a drop spilled. Kashmiri was killed for being a terrorist-- but in this painting he is more than that. He is human. In Rockwell’s context Kashmiri is nothing more than average; he drinks tea just as any other person would. Rockwell reframes how Kashmiri is viewed by stripping away visual preconceptions. His humanity becomes a reality because he is not shown humiliated, disheveled and unglorified. He simply exists in Rockwell’s painting with the scene intact (apart from his head).
Unfortunately, the one sided portrayal of Kashmiri is not uncommon. The public perception of terrorists is consistently negative because of the oversimplified picture the media tends to portray. Details of terrorist acts are plastered on the news but none are supplied in regards to circumstance. No context, reason or history is presented. Some details are given as to how the acts of terrorism take place, but no information is provided as to why they happened. The act itself is presented but the “why” is left untold. The media overlooks the human side of terrorists--their family, their relatives, their struggle, and their lives. Because of the lack of information presented about their motives, people assume terrorists are the epitome of evil, agents of chaos whose purpose is only destruction. Terrorism is painted as black and white, nothing more than another battle between good and evil. This oversimplified conclusion leads to a lack of analysis surrounding the idea of terror. The consequences of terrorist acts are obvious, why consider the reason they occurred? Why consider the benefactors of such violence?
The Little Book of Terror and Rockwell’s work as a whole play a direct role in altering how terrorists and terrorism are viewed. Unlike the US representation of terrorists, pictured as unkempt, unattractive and disoriented, Rockwell paints her subjects with a sense of normalcy. She strips original images, like that of Osama Bin Laden’s bloody face, or Saddam Hussein being captured, of their originally intended brutality and potency. Replacing gruesome, uncivilized images with bright and simple ones, Rockwell alters the idea of terrorists as “the other”-- something other than human. Kumar remarks that the media is extremely successful at presenting “people who come to us stripped of any sign of place or past” (Kumar, iii). Rockwell does just the opposite. She depicts the “terrorists” partaking in normal activities (like taking tea in an orchard right before being killed), and displaying regular emotions. Terrorists are people in her paintings, people Rockwell’s audience can connect with. Her paintings humanize terrorists where other visual representations leave them demonized.
Daisy Rockwell uses an alternate version of visual media to present the concept of terror and terrorism in a new light. Her paintings bestow meaning and importance upon the humanity of “terrorists”. The simplicity of her artwork forces the audience to shift the impression of terrorists as inherently evil and question the definition of terror.
Works Cited Rockwell, Daisy. The Little Book of Terror. New York: Foxhead Books, 2012. Print.
Religion & Identity
On Jasbir Puar's "The Turban is not a Hat" & Junaid Rana's "The Story of Islamophobia"
by Rasul Al-Tamimi, Reice James
May 24, 2012
With the terrorist events of 9/11, the global war of terror achieved the sufficient ignition it needed to launch and even larger campaign of mistrust and suspicion for the orient (or east, or other). What began as an assertion of nationalism by Americans simultaneously became a new battle for Muslim Americans and Muslims globally. What was once a symbol of their religion, culture and ethnicity is a now a mark of “the terrorist.” The profiling has since evolved from phenotypical to ideological as the identity of the accused has become a tool used to vilify a religion. Backlash from the war on terror has brought about a division between the American culture and those outside of a particular idea of the mainstream, effectively labeling the latter as one to be watched. Cultural studies scholarship such as like Junaid Rana’s “The Story of Islamaphobia” and Jasbir Puar’s “The Turban is not a Hat”, explore religion, identity, and homogeny though the post modern, post 911, racial profiling of the east (“orient”) or non-white America. It is the intent of this essay to explore those ideas and problematize more current paradigms of orientalism by looking at race and religion together.
The idea of mistaken identity comes forth through the struggle of Sikhs in post September 11 America. Sikh men are being classified as Muslim due to the turban which has lead to hate crimes and racial profiling. Similarities in physical identity of two different religions have lead to them being grouped. As stated in Puar’s work “turbans, in their symbolic weight, are the masculine counterparts to veils, and in their usage, irrevocably link Sikh and Muslims, signifying honor, dignity, and purity, virginity, and chastity; a sardar removes his turban as an offering of his word, a commitment to a promise” (Puar 57). There is an acknowledgement that a similarity exists, both having these head pieces with similar value and significance to the faith. While there is this definite link, it still needs to be understood that Islam and Sikhism are two different religions. The veil and the Turban have their similarities, but they belong to different faiths. Sikh advocates have tried to bring this to the attention of the American people. Still, as Puar states: “the ideals of multiculturalism as promulgated by liberal education acknowledges that differences within differences matters; that violent backlash toward Sikhs, claiming Sikhism as peaceful, is a displacement of hostility from the rightful object, the ‘real Muslim” (Puar 48-49). Puar complicates the mechanisms of mistaken identity in post September 11 America where differences are not being accounted for grouping two separate religions together resulting in hostility for a larger group of individuals. However, her purpose is to complicate the thrust of liberal multiculturalism by denouncing the paradox of victimology that casted a dark shadow on post-9/11 interracial, interfaith, and interethnic solidarity between Sikhs and Muslims.
Another dynamic between religion and identity can be seen in the racialization of religion, in particular Islam. Junaid Rana's states that “ without a doubt, the diversity of the Islamic world in terms of nationality, language, ethnicity, culture and other markers of difference, would negate popular notions of racism against Muslims as a singular racial group. Yet current practices of racial profiling in the War on Terror perpetuate a logic that demands the ability to define what a Muslim looks like from appearance and visual cues” (149). With Muslims amounting to over 1.5 billion worldwide, they are found on every corner of this world, speaking different languages, coming from different cultures, ethnicity's, backgrounds, and races yet the current profiling places all non-westerns ideas into one group, the grouping then allows the ideas of the panopticon and surveillance to be more easily established.
Both Puar and Rana demonstrate a comprehensive and nuanced approach to understanding racialized bodies post-9/11 and its resulting global war on terror. Their efforts to unpack and flesh out the complications of terrorist bodies or bodies of suspicion manage to both point out differences and articulate the consolidation of said bodies. It is with this in mind that we must think about the religion and identity within our new global racial paradigm.