EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality

Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008

(W026)

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

Location 233
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2008 at 09:00

Convenor

Reetta Toivanen (University of Helsinki) email
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Short Abstract

This workshop focuses on the cultural construction of terrorists and terrorist organisations as "the other". The workshop calls for papers discussing the processes and meanings of the dominant constructions of 'terrorists' by decision makers, media, security agencies and international actors.

Long Abstract

This workshop focuses on the cultural construction of terrorists and terrorist organisations as "the other". There is a lack of research about the processes in which 'knowledge' about the 'dangerous other' is produced. It is interesting to think about the methods currently in use against terrorism, whether international or national, and about the ways in which a cultural construction, the stereotype of a terrorist, as "the other", influences the politics in which human rights are restricted in order to produce security / stability / economic growth. The workshop calls for papers discussing the processes and meanings of the dominant constructions of 'terrorists' by decision makers, media, security agencies and international actors. At the same time, papers addressing the political and socio-cultural implications of the "war on terror" are welcomed.

Key words: othering, war on terror, human rights, security agencies

Papers

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)  email
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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.

Purifying "Hezbollah": the entanglement of diverse forms of expert knoweldge on "terrorism" in Lebanon

Author: Nikolas Kosmatopoulos (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne)  email
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Long Abstract

Whereas the increasing militarization of academic knowledge on "terrorism" has heavily contributed to the apotheosis of eurocentric superficiality (different versions of "clash of civilizations" thesis), a similar partisanship seems often to drive traditional institutions attributed with the task of producing knowledge about the "Other" (e.g. mainstream think tanks and intelligence services) into a cul-de-sac of mirrored, hence distorted images. Arguably demonisation has a certain backlash effect by putting several black boxes into place.

Moreover, the appearance of new forms of entanglement of different kinds of expert knowledge (diplomatic, military, academic, intelligence) draws a quite complex and intriguing matrix of actors and institutions competing or cooperating for resolving these new enigmas. Often their claimed expertise is premised upon a certain degree of proximity to the "Other", which has a delegitimizing effect upon their own credibility in their respective audiences.

An ethnographic analysis of the making of the field of expert knowledge production about "Hezbollah" in Lebanon shall demonstrate how the entanglements and modalities inherent in the field on a local level have acute implications on its final output on a more global scale, where think tanks, intelligence services and individual experts strive to "purify the hybrids" (Latour).

Creating enemies in the War on Terror: the reinforcement of essentialized cultural difference through "legalized" torture

Author: Elan Abrell (City University of New York)  email
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Long Abstract

A series of executive orders and disingenuous legal memos produced by the Bush regime - most notably the infamous "torture memo" written by Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo while working at the Office of Legal Counsel - resulted in the de facto legalization of torture of people designated as "enemies" by the U.S. government in its "war on terror." This sanctioning of torture (along with other anti-rights policies) combined with a widely disseminated discourse conflating the threat of terrorism with radical political Islam has contributed to the production of a juridically reinforced category of essentialized cultural difference. This attempt to legally legitimize torture has had the ideological effect of further normalizing the perception of its Muslim targets as bad (evil, even) and thus deserving of such horrific treatment.

This paper will focus on the Bush regime's attempt to legitimize torture as a process by which essentialized cultural differences centered around political ideology and religion are reinforced by the justification of policies through legal manipulation. After outlining the series of pro-torture legal opinions and executive orders produced by the Bush regime, it will draw a connection between this tactic and the larger project of producing an absolute enemy (to replace the defunct soviet "evil empire") against which U.S. imperial military exploits can be legitimated, stressing how this enemy is used to facilitate privatized war as a mechanism for racialized and culturally essentialized accumulation by dispossession.