Andrew Strathern, Pamela J. Stewart, and Neil L. Whitehead (eds.): Terror and Violence: Imagination and the Unimaginable.

Author:Lancaster, Guy
Position::Book review
 
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Andrew Strathern, Pamela J. Stewart, and Neil L. Whitehead (eds.) Terror and Violence: Imagination and the Unimaginable, Pluto: London, 2006; 250 pp.: 0745323987 19.99 pounds sterling] (pbk); 0745323995 60 pounds sterling] (hbk)

In his afterword to Terror and Violence: Imagination and the Unimaginable, Neil L. Whitehead remarks that terror goes beyond the simple destruction of life and property, and that it entails the production of a cultural imaginary in which people contemplate and even anticipate their own demise: 'This constant imaginative rehearsal of certain forms of death and dying reflects not just some greater awareness of the use of shocking and outrageous forms of violence as a means of political and cultural assertion, but also the avowedly conscious construction of violence strategies of such assertion' (p. 231). Or as co-editors Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart put it in their introduction, 'Terror consists precisely in intrusions into expectations about security, making moot the mundane processes on which social life otherwise depends' (p. 7). After all, part of the response of the US government to the attacks on New York City on 11 September 2001--which stood out in the popular discourse, for a few years at least, as the summit of terror, the standard by which all else was judged in the western world--was to take steps for the ostensible increase of security. However, the source of terror proved multivalent for Americans, for while many obsessed with imagined gaggles of foreign jihadists demanded or were pleased with such policies, numerous other Americans felt terrorised by their own government as well as by fellow citizens who objected to their ethnicity, religious beliefs or political views, presenting attitudes and actions that intruded into the 'expectations about security' of large swathes of society.

Terror cuts many ways, and is such an integral part of our daily lives as to be rendered almost invisible--a fact that makes Terror and Violence a most welcome work, for its contributors interrogate the production of terror in a variety of contexts across the globe, providing keen anthropological insight into the relationship between terror and violence and asking how terror impacts victims, perpetrators and witnesses. Misty L. Bastian begins with a piece on the 12 October 2001 'Kano War' in Nigeria, examining how the global discourse surrounding the previous month's attack in New York shaped the representation of...

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