Accepted paper:

From the cultural construction of terrorists to the social production of antagonism: why social conflict is irreducible to diversity

Author:

Detlef Georgia Schulze (Free University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores this contradiction: On the one hand the state tries to deny the political character of ‘terrorism’ and treats ‘terrorists’ as criminals; on the other hand the state treats ‘terrorists’ differently to other criminals. Why is it impossible for it to treat ‘terrorists’ as “normal criminals”?

Paper long abstract:

Juridical practices are an important factor in constructing 'terrorism'. When first regarding this position, one could state that 'terrorists' are criminals, who do not enjoy the equal protection of the laws. When doing so, we tend to see 'terrorists' as the mere product of that production process, whereas the hegemonic juridical etc. forces are the subjects of this process. It seems likely, that neither the protagonists of the 'war on terror' nor the 'terrorists' will agree with that liberal victimisation of the 'terrorists'. 'Terrorists' are not treated equally, because they are - as the EU Frame Decision on combating terrorism states - aiming at 'seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country'. So, maybe it would be useful to test the reverse hypothesis: 'Terrorists' are political enemies who are not considered as political enemies, but instead as criminals. 'Terrorists' are not Others, rather: 'Terrorism' is denied Otherness. Therefore we have to face that contradiction: On the one hand the state tries to deny the political character of 'terrorism' and to treat the 'terrorists' as criminals; on the other hand the state treats 'terrorists' differently to other criminals. But why 'terrorists' are in reality not treated as "normal criminals" as the liberals suggest? Or should we not better ask: What makes it impossible for the state to treat terrorists as "normal criminals"? To answer this question we do not need a theory about the cultural construction of 'terrorists', but rather a theory about the social production of enmity, of political antagonism.

panel W026
Imagining and constructing "terrorism" and "war on terror"