Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"The suicide attacker, as Richard Boothby has written, short-circuits this relationship between master and slave. The uneven dialectic is based on the formula: your freedom or your life. But it is uneven because, if you choose the former, you can't have either. In a suicide attack, the attacker abruptly proves willing to give up her life to end the stand-off; turning her corporeality, her body, into a weapon. Jacqueline Rose made the point, writing about suicide attackers some years ago, that every such attack is "an act of passionate identification -- you take your enemy with you". Which could be interpreted as meaning, you take a bit of their whiteness, their being, with you. You claim a share of being, seemingly always precarious, always endangered, through death.

Lone wolf suicide attackers may not kill many people compared to the apparatuses of military full-spectrum dominance, or militarised policing. But they evoke a particular horror because they upend the (racialised) political and strategic calculations through which this assymetrical stand-off was assumed to be manageable. It is the precise opposite of 'risk-transfer war', in which the eroticised embodiment of death and killing is eliminated through drone abstractions, and policed out of national imaginaries both by borders and security apparatuses and by the working of ideology. Facebook users were grimly amused, during the fall-out from the Westminster attack, to notice people from far afield marking themselves as 'safe'. Only a very small number of people in this world are actually entirely safe; we are all continually living the crisis, to a greater or lesser extent, a precarious situation in which our lives can be blown apart by recession, austerity, violent crime, family breakdown, or a major social conflict. Only when people start being murdered is it possible to think of oneself as 'safe'. The appearance of the dead, the unpredictable irruption of a form of violence that belongs elsewhere -- what ITN called "Baghdad-style violence" in the wake of the Woolwich attack -- reminds us forcefully of the ideology according to which we are indeed safe."

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