Representing Humanity in an Age of Terror

Representing Humanity in an Age of Terror

Sophia A. McClennen
Henry James Morello
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Representing Humanity in an Age of Terror
    Book Description:

    The authors of the volume's articles discuss aspects of terror with regard to human rights events across the globe, but especially in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Their discussion and reflection demonstrate that the need to question continuously and to engage in permanent critique does not contradict the need to seek answers, to advocate social change, and to intervene critically.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-033-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction to Representing Humanity in an Age of Terror
    (pp. 1-14)
    Sophia A. McClennen and Henry James Morello

    Written in the context of critical dialogues about the war on terror and the global crisis in human rights violations, the articles in this volume ask a series of questions: What definitions of humanity account for the persistence of human rights violations? How do we define terror and how do we understand the ways that terror affects the representation of those that both suffer and profit from it? Why is it that the representation of terror often depends on a distorted (e.g., racist, fascist, xenophobic, essentialist, eliminationist) representation of humanity? And, most importantly, can representation, especially forms of art, rescue...

  4. Part One Human Rights
    • Democracy's Promise and the Politics of Worldliness in the Age of Terror
      (pp. 17-35)
      Henry A. Giroux

      It has become commonplace to acknowledge that post-civil rights America is characterized by a declining interest in and misgiving about mainstream national politics. In a society in which the public sphere is largely characterized by a culture of fear and the public realm is largely accredited through the discourse of consumerism, politics is, for the most part, emptied of any substance (see BaumanConsuming Life). Similarly, the space of official politics increasingly appears utterly corrupt and inhabited by right-wing ideologues who, in their Talibanlike orthodoxy, exhibit a deep disdain for debate, dialogue, and democracy itself. What is much less discussed...

    • The Humanities, Human Rights, and the Comparative Imagination
      (pp. 36-57)
      Sophia A. McClennen

      Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: a Danish newspaper publishes satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, setting off protests, riots, and heated debates about the tensions between "freedom of expression" and respect for cultural difference (see "Muhammad Cartoon Row"). Those who defend the cartoons claim that they were meant to spark debate and reflection. What is wrong in that, they ask? Those who criticize them argue, in contrast, that the cartoons were degrading depictions of a community that already feels embattled both in Europe and globally and that the cartoons demonstrate profound disrespect for Islamic law that prohibits images...

    • The Logic and Language of Torture
      (pp. 58-74)
      Jonathan H. Marks

      The road from terror to torture is, alas, well traveled. Fueled by narrative constructs that evoke fear and anger, we embark on exercises in moral reconstruction and legal exceptionalism—rendering permissible (sometimes even mandating) what would otherwise be prohibited and making inevitable what would otherwise be inconceivable. Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed that "most people reason dramatically, not quantitatively" (qtd. in Myers 56). A century later behavioral economists told us that, most of all, we fear "dread risks"—uncontrollable low-probability, high-consequence events, such as mass terror attacks (Slovic 283). The vivid and devastating collapse of the twin towers provided evidence...

    • Narration in International Human Rights Law
      (pp. 75-94)
      Joseph R. Slaughter

      "The question of identification is never the affirmation of a pregiven identity, never aself-fulfilling prophecy—it is always the production of an image of identity and the transformation of the subject in assuming that image" (Bhabha 45); "International human rights law codifies the rights of the individual in increasingly concrete and justiciable form, and reflects international consensus on the inviolability of the individual and on the urgency of enforcement of human rights that flow from that consensus" (Maran 3): the two quotes that preface this article (the first taken from the field of contemporary literary and philosophical theory and...

    • On Linguistic Human Rights and the United States "Foreign" Language Crisis
      (pp. 95-108)
      Domna Stanton

      According to the myth of Babel, God intended that there be "one language and few words" "for the whole earth" (Gen. 11.1); but because of the misguided desire of "men" to build a city "tower with its top in the heavens," in other words, of a Promethean ambition and presumption, the God of Genesis scatters "men" "over the face of all the earth" and "confuses" their language, proliferating idioms so that "they may not understand one another's speech" (11.7-8). Although this fall into linguistic multitude, as confusion and misunderstanding, seems to contradict the earlier passage in Genesis where the sons...

    • The Black Body and Representations of the (In)human
      (pp. 109-124)
      Li-Chun Hsiao

      In the opening pages ofBlack Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon assumes not only a white mask but a white gaze and addresses provocatively his race as "other than human." Consistent with the ambivalent vacillations characterizing the writing of this book, Fanon, however, does not simply interpellate his fellow blacks as either outright "non-human" or affirmatively human. On the very same page, he states that "the black is a black man," which does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the black is therefore a man—and not only because a sophist or nominalist argument would remind us that a...

  5. Part Two Media
    • The Terrorist Event
      (pp. 127-142)
      Bill Nichols

      The eleventh of September, 2001 introduced the United States to the experience of domestic terrorism as no other event has ever done. For most people, word of this event first arrived as live television news. We are at home, or work. We see images of disaster of an extraordinary magnitude. As the morning of 9/11 unfolds, television news anchors interrupt regular programming to speak to us from their studio chambers as they report what eludes their comprehension. Their reports and images offer evidence of a catastrophic event but provide no context or perspective. It is as if live television coverage...

    • Reading South African Media Representations of Islam after 11 September 2001
      (pp. 143-158)
      Gabeba Baderoon

      Susan Sontag writes, in herRegarding the Pain of Others, that "The problem is not that people remember through photographs, but that they remember only the photographs" (89). Indeed, photographs seem to communicate directly. In fact, they generate a disorderly array of meanings and it is the role of words to discipline the meaning of a photograph. Pierre Bourdieu proclaims that "photos are nothing without words," but it may be truer that pictures are too many things without words (20). In the case of the news photograph, it is the role of the caption to stabilize its unruly meanings. Sontag...

    • Collateral Damage and the "Incident" at Haditha
      (pp. 159-173)
      Tom Engelhardt

      First news stories about the My Lai massacre (picked up from an army publicity release), March 1968:The New York Timeslabeled the operation a significant success: "American troops caught a North Vietnamese force in a pincer movement on the central coastal plain yesterday, killing 128 enemy soldiers in day-long fighting" ("G.I.'s"). United Press International called it an "impressive victory," and added a bit of patriotic color: "The Vietcong broke and ran for their hide-out tunnels. Six-and-a-half hours later, 'Pink Village' had become a 'Red, White and Blue Village'" (qtd. in Braestrup 251-52);

      The New York Times, 21 November 2005:...

    • The Tortured Body, the Photograph, and the US War on Terror
      (pp. 174-186)
      Julie Gerk Hernandez

      The photographs taken at Abu Ghraib prison, graphically depicting US military officers inflicting torture on Iraqi detainees, burst into the US media on 28 April 2004. The eerie juxtaposition of tormented, unidentifiable Iraqis and smiling, identifiable US officers incited instantly worldwide shock and outrage. In the ensuing months, however, the explosive impact of the pictures slowly and stealthily dissipated, as the scandal vanished into an epistemological void; the US-American public's initial concern was ephemeral. The media attention on individuals such as Pfc. Lyndie England and Spec. Charles Graner distracted the US public from what happened systemically at the US military...

    • Mass-Mediated Social Terror in Spain
      (pp. 187-205)
      Nicholas Manganas

      On 11 March 2004, ten bombs exploded in and around Madrid's Atocha station, killing 191 people and wounding another 1,500. The 11 March attacks were executed by thirteen Islamic "terrorists" 911 days after the 9/11 attacks, whose modus operandi was imitated (four trains paralleled four planes) (Calvo 9). The attack occurred three days before the 14 March national election when it was generally believed that the then Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar would lead the conservative Partido Popular (PP: Popular Party) into its third term in office. In a narrative of events that will go down in popular Spanish...

    • Media in a Capitalist Culture
      (pp. 206-218)
      Barbara Trent

      I have spent most of the past fourteen years using video and film as a means of community organizing and as a tool for social change. Prior to that, in the mid-sixties, I worked as an activist and a community organizer. In the late 1970s, I was an expert, Senior Training Specialist for the Action Agency, which oversaw the Peace Corps and VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). In earlier times, I did my work while only receiving money as a welfare mother. One way or another, I have always managed to do what I thought was important and still...

  6. Part Three Analysis
    • Textual Strategies to Resist Disappearance and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
      (pp. 221-231)
      Alicia Partnoy

      More than thirty years ago, on 30 April 1977, Azucena Villaflor de De Vincenti led a dozen women to the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina's capital city. Coming from a range of backgrounds, the women had one thing in common: they all had children who had been disappeared by the military government. By choosing to demonstrate across the street from the presidential office building, la Casa Rosada (the Pink House), the mothers were seeking public visibility as a strategy to rescue their children, who had been kidnapped and kept in secret detention places. In addition to marching, the mothers launched...

    • The Global Phenomenon of "Humanizing" Terrorism in Literature and Cinema
      (pp. 232-242)
      Elaine Martin

      Writing about the events of 11 September 2001, Haruo Shirane concluded: "It is not enough to condemn and fight terrorism: we must understand its causes" (513). In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, however, this was not an acceptable thought. Any effort to understand, explain, or investigate the cause of the attacks was perceived as an attempt at justification. Providing a reason for the attacks transformed them into the acts of rational people, and it was preferable to view the perpetrators as madmen operating in an irrational world. In his essay "The Essential Terrorist," Edward Said addresses this same...

    • Landmines, HIV/AIDS, and Africa's New Generation
      (pp. 243-251)
      Barbara Harlow

      "Never leave the path. Not even by a metre. Never take short cuts." Mama Lydia gives this advice to her daughter Sofia every single morning (Mankell,Secrets12). The admonition is reiterated again and again by Jose-Maria as well, who maintains the village school attended by Sofia and her sister Maria: "Use only the paths," he emphasizes. "Never take short cuts, even if you're in a hurry" (43). The rationale behind such strict instructions for making one's way, whether to school or to the fields, or home again, is explained by Jose-Maria: "There are landmines," he says and goes on...

    • Dorfman, Schubert, and Death and the Maiden
      (pp. 252-261)
      David Schroeder

      Numerous writers have tried to introduce musical elements into their works and some have managed it with great success. Some of these writers have themselves been sophisticated musicians, such as James Joyce—who would have won a vocal competition in Dublin had he not been edged out by Ireland's soon-to-be superstar tenor, John McCormick—or Jane Austen, E.M. Forster, and Elfriede Jelinek, all of whom played the piano seriously if not at a professional level. Others have done it through their associations with musicians, for example, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was a close friend of the composers Johann Friedrich...

    • Bearing Witness through Fiction
      (pp. 262-272)
      Carolina Rocha

      In Ariel Dorfman'sDeath and the MaidenPaulina, a victim of the state-sponsored terrorism that took place during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1973-1990), asserts her right not only to speak, but also to revisit the trauma triggered by her torture and rape at the hands of Chilean repressors: "And I can speak—it's been years since I murmured even a word, I haven't opened my mouth to even whisper a breath of what I'm thinking, years living in terror of my own" (37). Paulina comes to articulate the unspeakable violence perpetrated against her by overcoming the silence that...

  7. Part Four Artists
    • Globalizing Compassion, Photography, and the Challenge of Terror
      (pp. 275-280)
      Ariel Dorfman

      We have grown strangely used to them over the last twenty-five years, the women with the small photo of a man pinned to their dark dresses, the extended tribe of those whose loved ones, from Chile to Kurdistan, from Argentina to Ethiopia, from Guatemala to Guinea, have been abducted in the night and never heard of again. Mothers and daughters, wives and sisters, demanding to know the true fate of their men, demanding that they be returned to their families alive. They have become a habitual presence, these faraway women on the television screen asking at least for a body...

    • A Monk's Tale
      (pp. 281-295)
      Sam Hamill

      When I extracted the envelope from my post office box that crisp, clear January morning, I knew immediately what it was. The cream-colored square envelope had gold capital letters in the upper left-hand corner: THE WHITE HOUSE. I knew Laura Bush had sponsored several evenings with writers in her promotion of literacy. Clearly, there was going to be a poetry event, and equally clearly, I had been placed on the list. There could be no other possibilities. I didn't open it. I put it with other mail and returned to Copper Canyon Press, where I was in the midst of...

    • Poetry and the Aesthetic of Morality
      (pp. 296-308)
      Michael McIrvin

      The goddess Cantarita, known by some asLa Verdad, bathed in cold clear water under a moon so full her breasts ached, her midnight aureoles dripping the deep blue milk of life. As she moved, the inchoate hum-of-being rose from her flesh, for she had left her amulet of syllables on the bank with her gown. A man peered from the bushes, frightened by the voice of creation, but he hungered for Cantarita too, and he felt ashamed. As she washed, he crept forward to touch the perfect hem of her moonlit gown and discovered the string of vocables wrapped...

    • Artists in Times of War
      (pp. 309-318)
      Howard Zinn

      When I think of the relationship between artists and society—and for me the question is always what it could be, rather than what it is—I think of the word "transcendent." It is a word I never use in public, but it's the only word I can come up with to describe what I think about the role of artists. By transcendent, I mean that the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has...

  8. Part Five Bibliography
    • Selected Bibliography of Comparative Studies on Human Rights Culture
      (pp. 321-336)
      Henry James Morello
  9. Contributors' Profiles
    (pp. 337-342)
  10. Index
    (pp. 343-348)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 349-349)