Friday, February 15, 2008



As Sibley has emphasized, ‘outsiders’ cannot be understood in isolation: the interactions between the ‘mainstream’ society and outsiders and the spaces into which each is allowed are important because they are important representations of how we see our selves - in this respect at least the construction of the ‘terrorist’ is no different from the ‘poor’, the ‘homeless’. An identity politics perspective on ‘The War on Terrorism’, therefore, seeks to theorize iconic (as opposed to ‘lived’) Terrorism by basing it not only on the experiences of injustice associated with the identity of those excluded as ‘terrorists’, but on the insight Terrorism gives us into the performed identities of the ‘Just’.

Since the attack on the World Trade Centre, the expansion of a range of highly masculinized terms such as ‘terrorist sympathizers’ and ‘enablers’ has allowed the exclusionary terminology of an Unending War on Terrorism to encroach rapidly on hitherto acceptable forms of civic participation and public behaviour in at least nominally public and democratic spaces, physical and cyber. The immanent, not to say Manichaean properties of a voracious other, Terrorism, have been instrumentalized to urge the necessity for forms of sexualized, priapic behaviour deemed pre-9/11 to be unacceptable (extraordinary rendition (sexual abduction), torture (forced penetration)), raising a number of interesting questions about the public and the private, the acceptable and the unacceptable. As Said put it:

“Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex an interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings.” (Said, 1993: 7)

The current forms of behaviour that are defined as Terrorism are geo-spatial behaviours sanctified in the past as an important part of the national mythology of at least some of the G8 countries and their geo-political allies, leaving one to ask: Is the ‘problem’ of Terrorism less that it is in some way deviant, but that it is mainstream behaviour carried out in deviant geo-political space? Does the deviant nature of this ‘other’ behaviour also intensify performances of sexualised masculinity which allow the private to subordinate the public? Is torture an act in which the deviant terrorist is forced into a submissive, feminized role and malestream liberal democracy can hold up a mirror in which to admire its masculinity?

With these and other interesting questions in mind, Guerilla Geographers will be seeking to invert the norm by performing waterboarding in a number of iconic public spaces in London on March 1st in Russell Sq at 1pm, thus (hopefully) challenging accepted public/private divides, asking the public to comment on and think about the ‘acceptable’ and pushing at the barriers of the legally acceptable versus the privately unaccountable.

NB For those who are unaware of what waterboarding involves, please watch the 10-minute video-clip at of someone being (voluntarily) waterboarded.

Contacts: Jon Cloke and Daniel Raven-Ellison,Co-administrators,
Guerilla Geography

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