I, too have been personally attacked by the UNC GOP

Hey everyone, I found this article written by UNC student, Alec Dent circulating amongst some conservative, right wing thinkers I just so happen to be friends with. We have something in common Dr. Ahuja because I, too have been personally attacked by the UNC GOP. To save us the trouble of more reading, the article does not elaborate for what reasons “ENGL 72: Literature of 9/11” is as Fox Nation calls a “Disgrace on Campus”. There is plenty background about Neel, including his hometown, his teaching appointments, and salary. Dent raises much concern over the class syllabus not including the point of view from victims and their families, as if there is a lack of terror-porn circulating about victims, images, destruction of property, and the US nationalist response. Point of this tidbit: if you haven’t already, set a Google alert for your name and refuse to respond to such nonsensical rhetoric.

_________________________________________________________________________

In GEOG 423: Racialization in the Global City, we are learning how catastrophic events change the nature of colonial projects and enterprise creating new systems of oppression and privilege. In the US, this system has vastly benefited white people, specifically white men but nevertheless the systems changed and adapted to its new environment. For example, the most current of these “sub-expressions of structure” is cultural/differential racism created post-Emancipation, end of the Civil War, and post-thirteenth amendment. It is my understanding that this first chapter would agree that colonial projects are flexible in their execution of taking space. It may however diverge in opinions regarding theories related to globalization and imperialism. I found it interesting that imperialism, the highest stage of colonialism centered, at least in definition, upon capitalism. It would make sense considering how exploitative such a market becomes that capitalism must then be the root of all evil, but it was interesting to me to think about colonial trappings and their effects on the human body, mind, and soul in terms of economics. I should spend more time studying economies that are not only anti-capitalist, but also ante-capitalist. It was eye-opening to read how dynamic iterations of center/periphery were expressed in other sites, that involved people of color colonizing other people/groups of color. Yet, with this absorption of displaced peoples I am curious of what makes a racialized motivation as violent as it has historically been, not only in treatment but also passionate hate for people we (as “Americans”) have not met. As always when discussing the canon of literature written on this topic, I end with more questions that when I began.

I did find Loomba’s elaborations about resistance and post-colonialism: fair. As someone who would like to think is working toward my own liberation and “decolonizing”, I am open to the idea that this is more than working through internal racism, bias, and quickness to identify with the majoratorian narrative and envy the position of white/male/middleclass. If it is of the opinion that we are living in a post-colonial world and that our options are to decolonize our mindfulness, then are we left with accepting the colonial project of the US and Europe as a reality of the past, are we guaranteed that such a narrative will be written on and studied in the next half century? Since the project of colonialism is arguable over, then do we begin to see the success of an American democracy as related to our liberation and decolonized minds? I’m not sure.

 

Bryce Elliott

Before reading Ania Loomba’s chapter about colonialism versus post-colonialism, I had only considered the interactions between the colonists and the natives within a region at surface level. Loomba expanded my view on the ways in which interaction between peoples of different cultures, backgrounds, values, and political structures, irrevocably and fundamentally changes the mechanics that keep a society intact.

Most interesting to me is Loomba’s distinguishing between imperialism and colonialism (terms which I had once considered to be virtually synonymous) and identifying the ways in which these terms’ definitions have changed over time. This allowed me to understand the different types of interaction and oppression experienced by the natives, and how this led to different cultural views on colonialism.

The ways in which the economies of the motherland and her settlements were reliant on one another economically becomes the distinguishing factor between what Loomba calls imperialism and colonization.

Loomba assesses the interaction between a mother country and it’s colony as colonial when the resources and labor force of the new land are necessary to retain the colony, and uninterrupted trade between the mother country and the new settlement is essential to both counterparts’ success. Colonies were essential for European nations to grow in capitol through trade and industry, because the labor force and natural resources of the motherland were limited. On the other hand, an empire is more concerned with spreading the religion, cultural practices, and language of the mother country. She points out the capitalism is regarded as the tipping point between the two alternatives. The interaction is empirical if the native people are free to trade resources and labor with settlers and receive fair compensation according to their individual system of values. Any degree of subjugation to further the economic prosperity of the mother country would constitute a colony.

In colonized regions of world, such as South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, the native people and the settlers felt more estranged from one another, and were more reluctant to intermingle. Conflicts between colonists and natives both caused and furthered this estrangement, leading to even more mistrust among peoples. In many cases, natives were victims of slavery, disease, inferior technology, and inadequate ability to fight against the belligerent colonizers, who came prepared to encounter resistance against their colonization.

Even though the economic prosperity of the motherland was a drive for settling new lands, the Spanish peoples’ practice of intermingling cultures among the native people of their newly settled lands led to a more sanguine interrelationship among vastly different people. By intermarrying and trading with natives, the Spanish fostered more positive relationships. The Mestizo posterity of the people who had initial contact built strong relationships with natives by embracing cultural practices of the separate religions, political systems, and values. However, the Elitist progeny still retained a strong sense of white supremacy, and the culturally suppressed native progeny retained a sense of subjugation, despite the generally peaceful relations between the two cultures.

I can think of very few cases where the intermingling of cultures could be considered exclusively colonial or empirical. The two types of interaction are more of a spectrum than a drawn line, and the distinguishing factors between post-colonialism and neo-colonialism are even harder to discern. One thing I am sure of, however, is that, when two cultures intersect, with any degree of capitalism or subjugation, it changes the way the newly united cultures evolve from that point forward, and the fruits of the interaction can never be taken back or erased from the minds of the people whose ancestors experienced it. It ingrains a new sense of cultural identity into the people of a region according to the cultural exchanges that take place.

 

Clash of Civilizations. . . Again

Huntington’s 1993 piece seeks to direct American world policy toward a new battleground in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  His “Clash of Civilizations” theory places the world into eight power blocs based on shared cultural and religious identity.  He believes that these blocs divide the globe into economic and political zones based on this overreaching principle.  This theory echoes the entangling system of alliances which gave rise to World War One.  The dawn of the 20th century was ushered by competition across the globe by imperialist powers who identified themselves on a cultural basis within the parameters of westernized societies.  Even with the advent of non-western powers, or civilizations, the principle of a world run by a few powerful states can have disastrous consequences.  For example, if Huntington’s worldview was realized and the Chinese civilization came into conflict with the neighboring South Asian Hindu bloc, a war could break out which would involve entire continents.  A protracted conflict over a single flashpoint would drag in the entire economies and peoples of both civilizations and their allies.  Huntington’s system promotes world wars and pits literal billions of people at war with societies that would otherwise offer them no threat.  One would like to believe that the world has moved beyond allowing petty imperialist struggles encompass the globe. Views like Huntington’s promote a means to an end, not a way forward

terrorism ch. 1

I love how language evolves and I love how meanings can change over time. Does this change the actions behind the definition or does the definition change the action? Because humanity doesn’t change. Sure, it can show up in different forms, but people six centuries ago and people today are still cut from the same cloth. People are still driven by survival, by love and by opinion. They’re driven by passion and by hope and by the desire for things to change.

I still stand firmly behind the notion that a person can be viewed as a terrorist just as easily as they can be viewed as a rebel or an advocate, an activist or a freedom fighter. It just depends on whether or not you’re on the receiving end of their ‘activism’ or their ‘terror’. That stipulation is not me condoning violence or me condoning the actions of others that have caused and continue to cause great amounts of pain and suffering. But I think it’s important to look at their motivations. I don’t remember if it was this article or the next, but it was talked about how Franz Ferdinand’s assassination sparked World War 1 because of someone’s hope that the Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, etc. would be then drawn together under a united front. Arguing if he succeeded or not is a different question, but his murderous intentions had a reason behind it. One one side it’s viewed as killing, on the other it’s viewed as a necessary evil for a greater good.

The human race is still as complex as they were when they were born, and I don’t think that that stands to change anytime soon.

Kaldor – new wars are “mutual enterprises”

In “In Defense of New Wars,” Kaldor asserts that most war as we know it today can better be described as a “mutual enterprise” than by the Clausewitzean definition of war as a “contest of wills.” Using the example of the US war on terror, she points out how each attack and counter-attack by the US and terrorist organizations only serve to perpetuate the conflict and drum up additional forces, funds and social/political clout for both sides, resulting in long, inconclusive, and dismayingly profitable conflicts. She says:

“…Warring parties are interested in the enterprise of war rather than winning or losing, for both political and economic reasons” (p. 13).

If participants in wars of the 21st century intentionally pursue long conflicts for the various benefits they yield, then the “new war” described here is no longer about the outcome of the fighting but the fighting itself. By the logic of this passage, new wars are no longer fought as means to an end, but as means to more means. Is it cynical to suggest that new wars are primarily ventures of profit and patriotism?

Kaldor explains that the key to ending a new war comes through attacking the mutual enterprise, rather than feeding the efforts of one side or the other. If war has evolved to fit the model she suggests it has, then the manner by which wars are resolved must also change. What would “new peace” look like?

-Travis P.

Colonialism v. Imperialism

I thought this was an interesting dichotomy because I’ve always heard the terms used interchangeably, but with specific references to different events and locations. Colonialism can typically refer to the European conquest of continental Africa, the Scramble for Africa and the detrimental effects of the Triangle Slave Trade, the lack of concern for ethnic borders or religious groups, and the devastating economic and social result of centuries of oppression. Imperialism then is thought of as the spreading of American values and influence rather than direct takeover. There’s a militaristic presence but not a territorial conquest. With the attempted breakdown of the two terms as well as the argument of post-colonialism and whether or not that’s even a thing, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around things I thought that I already understood. Similar to Huntington’s civilization divisions, there are no concrete borders between what is colonial and imperial. You can only divide on such a broad spectrum that it can’t take into account individualistic details. The same goes for colonial and imperial societies, especially since some have been so defined by those two terms for as long as anyone can care to remember. With post-colonialism’s existence under debate, it made me think that can we really be post-colonial if colonial effects are still visible?

New Wars

I found Kaldor’s argument “In Defense of New Wars” quite convincing. She describes a current age of new wars by increasing conflict over identity, the proliferation and use of more advanced technology (such as bombs that can kill massive amounts of people at once, or drones that can both kill and spy), and conflicts in which actors are both state and non-state. Kaldor’s point about the growing number of non-state actors, including identity groups and activists, seems to resonate with Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”, in which he describes the main conflicting actors to be groups of states united by common cultural/ethnic/historical ties, warring against other such civilizations. Huntington describes these clashes between civilizations as being rooted in differing identities and values; these are in themselves a kind of new war.

Neither Kaldor nor Huntington directly mention terrorism: Huntington ignores the role of non-state actors as prominent in future clashes between major worlds powers. Kaldor, meanwhile, could be read as including terrorist groups as major actors in new wars when she describes identity groups and activists. The presence and power of terrorist groups today ought to be a major part of the discussion concerning new wars and the changing nature of war, especially when it comes to the complex conversation about how to create and maintain peace. Perhaps as we seek a better understanding of the changing nature of modern warfare we ought to be considering what a new kind of peace could look like as well.

Terror as State Apparatus

Hoffmann’s initial chapter closes with a laundry list of terrorist qualities, that when his historical treatment of the term is considered, seems to be the current stage of the terrorist figure at the time of publishing in 1998. They are as follows:

  • Political in aim and motivation
  • Violent or suggestive of violence
  • Intended to proliferate psychological distress
  • Conducted by a hierarchical, conspiratorial cabal
  • Maintained by non-state actors

While from most perspectives, the list seems fairly comprehensive, it is rather obvious that the final proposition poses something of a problem. He has not meaningfully substantiated the claim that terrorist activities cannot be carried out by state entities, especially when his historical analysis reveals that terrorism is, in fact, a governmental rule through fear. What are we to make of activities such as the Petrus Killings of the Suharto regime when viewed through Hoffmann’s schema? Hoffmann’s initial characterization of terrorism completely excludes the reciprocal relationship between terrorist organizations and the states their actions target.

Published in 1983—though not available in English translation until 1990—Fatal Strategies contains an analysis of the figure Baudrillard considers central to the contemporary economy of fear, the hostage. Concomitant with the notion of the hostage are the actors necessary to create it: the terrorist and the state.

Baudrillard contends that we have passed from the age of security into the age of terror:

The problem of security, as we know, haunts our societies and long ago replaced the problem of liberty. This is not as much a moral or philosophical change as an evolution in the objective state of systems:

 

—a relatively loose, diffuse and extensive state of the                system produces liberty;

—a different state of the system (denser) produces                    security (self-regulation, control, feedback, etc.);

—a further state of the system, that of proliferation and

saturation, produces panic and terror.

 

There is no metaphysics in any of this: these are the objective states of the system.  (Fatal Strategies 58, 2008)

The proliferation and saturation that Baudrillard refers to here, and very explicitly covers in nearby passages, is one of responsibility, a specter of terror that hovers—orbits might be more appropriate given Baudrillard’s technological focus—over each member of a society. In a society that has suffered the death of the subject, there is no cause, no locus of responsibility, for an event and each effect then draws to itself a generalized culpability: “The world is held collectively responsible for the order that reigns there” (60). Baudrillard concludes that, in such a society, terrorism limns a circuit of exchange, one undergoing positive feedback, wherein all participants engage in the production of terror and then suffer as the victims of it. In fact, the terrorist is as much a hostage: “And it is true that terrorism does not exist in itself as an original political act: it is the hostage of the media, just as they are hostage to it. There is no end to this chain of blackmail” (66).

Terrorism has become naturalized in the activities of states and non-state organizations to the point that, in the large number of cases, it is no longer a political act, but a transpolitical one, one that exists in asemic excess of the political. To illuminate the transpolitical:

The era of the political was one of anomie: crisis, violence, madness, and revolution. The era of the transpolitical is that of anomaly: an aberration with no consequence, contemporaneous with the event of no consequence. (46)

Anomie is figured against law, while anomaly against norm. The transpolitical is a position of law so inured to the social consciousness that meaningless aberration is the site of reaction, even though it is functionally harmless.

All of this is to say that, at this stage, terrorism becomes purely an act of symbolic exchange, aiming to disrupt and reveal the transpolitical, but instead manages to perpetuate it. Baudrillard asserts that we make a compromise for terrorism: “Understood: terrorism is still a lesser evil than a police state capable of ending it. […] it’s a secret balance of terror that makes us guess that a spasmodic eruption of violence is preferable to its rational exercise in the framework of the state” (69). In this sense, we, as constituent parts of the state, act alongside the state in conjuring the phantom of terrorism. Baudrillard grounds this conclusion in a fundamental of problem of exchange within the world of terror, where exchange has begun to lose its rules. Terrorism becomes something of a game, designed to perpetuate exchange, even though it will still fall apart as the transpolitical generates the inexchangeable. The question of eliminating terrorism then becomes one of a complete cessation of exchange:

In any case this ultimatum [“What price will you pay to be rid of terrorism?”] leaves the state with no response left, for it calls on it to makes itself more terrorist than the terrorists. And it throws the media into an insoluble dilemma: if you want no more terrorism, then you must renounce information itself. (70)

Of course, Hoffmann’s evaluation of terrorism is intended to a practical one. There is a striving to create a clear category of terrorist activity with the intention that such a demarcation will be actionable. However, it is clear that he writes from the perspective of a victimized state, one that participates in terrorist actions as a one-sided exchange, and ignores the notion of complicity in terrorist activity. Terrorist activity generates the illusion of accidental death in a society that only has access to systematized or programmed death, it nurtures anomie, as Baudrillard enacts it. Though perhaps long-winded, not very clearly explained and a tad conspiratorial, this movement towards a diffuse terrorism—if one can abide by the death of the subject—takes into much greater account the consequences of such activity, not only on an immediate political scale, but a larger societal one by examining it from the level of exchange. Hoffmann’s chapter is by no means a failure in its goals to define terrorism, but there needs to be a discussion on the actual causes and effects of terrorism.

Bruce Hoffman and “Defining Terrorism” Today

Bruce Hoffman’s piece on “Defining Terrorism” is a thought-provoking essay, raising many questions regarding the nature and goals of terrorists as he moves towards a workable definition. Hoffman ultimately accepts that terrorism cannot be clearly defined, settling instead to close his essay with a section titled “Distinctions as a Path to Definition.” According to Hoffman, the most effective way to define terrorists is by understanding what they are not.

Particularly, I am interested in Hoffman’s final distinction: he points out that the terrorist is “not pursuing perfectly egocentric goals”, further identifying the terrorist as “fundamentally a violent intellectual.” This classification piqued my interest, and I am curious whether Hoffman would assert this stance today. Ultimately that would depend on how he defines an intellectual. Is one an intellectual simply because they are motivated by a cause? That seems to be Hoffman’s logic. Ignoring the fact that defining an intellectual in that manner seems odd, I am confident Hoffman would hold to his position under that definition.

Hoffman seems to imply in the same paragraph that the only difference between a political extremist and a terrorist is violence; I find that a bit dramatic and far-fetched, as it seems to leave the entire psychological element of terrorism, referenced by Hoffman earlier in his essay, out of the picture.

Writing prior to the 9/11 attacks, Hoffman’s analysis predates the nature of terrorism as it has evolved over the last 17 years since his writing.  I am curious whether the events of 9/11 and the changes terrorism (and counterterrorism) have witnessed since that attack have changed Hoffman’s classification.