Like many people in America and around the world, Talal Asad
experienced the events of September 11, 2001, largely through the
media and the emotional response of others. For many non-Muslims,
"the suicide bomber" quickly became the icon of "an Islamic culture
of death"-a conceptual leap that struck Asad as problematic. Is
there a "religiously-motivated terrorism?" If so, how does it
differ from other cruelties? What makes its motivation "religious"?
Where does it stand in relation to other forms of collective
Drawing on his extensive scholarship in the study of secular and
religious traditions as well as his understanding of social,
political, and anthropological theory and research, Asad questions
Western assumptions regarding death and killing. He scrutinizes the
idea of a "clash of civilizations," the claim that "Islamic
jihadism" is the essence of modern terror, and the arguments put
forward by liberals to justify war in our time. He critically
engages with a range of explanations of suicide terrorism,
exploring many writers' preoccupation with the motives of
perpetrators. In conclusion, Asad examines our emotional response
to suicide (including suicide terrorism) and the horror it
On Suicide Bombing is an original and provocative
analysis critiquing the work of intellectuals from both the left
and the right. Though fighting evil is an old concept, it has found
new and disturbing expressions in our contemporary "war on terror."
For Asad, it is critical that we remain aware of the forces shaping
the discourse surrounding this mode of violence, and by questioning
our assumptions about morally good and morally evil ways of
killing, he illuminates the fragile contradictions that are a part
of our modern subjectivity.
Subjects: Anthropology, Religion, Political Science, History
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