Monday, September 06, 2004
Shock and Awe: The War on Words
Bregje van Eekelen
If you don’t know what to say about global war, you need a dictionary. Shock and Awe: War on Words (New Pacific Press: Fall 2004) is just that: a keywords book that participates in a battle over the imagination, acknowledging the force of words, concepts, and images in framing our everyday lives. Located in the borderlands between scholarship and public culture, it re-appropriates our vocabularies by exploring the political trajectories of world-making words, projects, and images.
You hear yourself use the word terrorism, and uncannily find yourself participating in its life, its proliferation, its reality. Willy-nilly you’ve become a participant in a world-making project of anxiety and antagonism. While it is impossible to completely give up on terms like peace, family, and security, to use them is to become a stranger in one’s own world. Yet how can we envision an alternative if our very imagination, the very definition of “the social” and the shape of “the political” are under attack?
Rather than being merely shocked and awed, a group of more than seventy scholars, artists and public intellectuals put their writings on the line. They present fragile genealogies, situated vocabularies, visual provocations and poetry. Tearing apart powerful representations or reclaiming them from being instruments of discipline, exclusion and imperialism, these short interventions populate, recapture, and enliven our sense of the political.
The project concludes that there is hope for the most overused words, and life for the most neutral-sounding concepts, such as:
America (as imagined from elsewhere), anti-terror legislation, barbarian, chicken, civilization, consumer, democracy, economic recovery, exit, family of patriots, fear, fences, homeland, iRaq, Islamic Feminism, lip, military-industrial complex, nomads, patriot, peace, pirate, race, security, speech, streamline, them, time, us, we, words.
Politics is, of course, not only about getting out to vote, but also about seizing the means of imagination. Please help us spread word of these alternative genealogies, fragments of everyday life, glimpses of social histories, and stories of mistranslation and encounter. You can order the book at The Literary Guillotine, 204 Locust Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831 457-1195; through Abebooks; or by downloading an order form from the Institute for Advanced Feminist Research (IAFR).
194 pages 7" x 4.5" US $10
From the first article:
Do words sometimes betray you, leaving you a stranger in your own land?
Words can be brutal, frustrating, and exhausting. Consider terrorism, civilization, and even peace, family, and security. Words can also be bridges to new forms of experience and openings for alliance. This book explores the political trajectories of words through pictures, excerpts, stories and exegesis about the politics of the present global situation. Scholars, artists, activists and poets have joined forces to offer alternative etymologies, genealogies, fragments of everyday life, and glimpses of social history as a form of defense and defiance in an escalating war on words.
"Feminisms and Global War Project, Institute for Advanced Feminist Research."
Shock and Awe: War on Words
By Bregje van Eekelen, University of California, Santa Cruz Institute for Advanced Feminist Research, Santa Cruz University of California, Institute for Advanced Feminist Research
Published by North Atlantic Books, 2004
ISBN 0971254605, 9780971254602