introductionIn this essay, I will be discussing how we encounterthe term ‘culture’ as a challenge and a preference, within the concepts of’culture of fear’ and ‘culture of terror’.
I will argue this in opposition tothe notion that these concepts are totalizing descriptions of the society andall-encompassing definitions of civilian’s daily lives. Is there a way ofwriting about cultural events and the ordinary lives of those affected byviolence that doesn’t run the risk of perpetuating the violence? The former, ‘cultureof fear’ is a concept used by Linda Green to describe how women in the Xe’cejcommunity of Guatemala, experience fear as a deeply infiltrating and embodied’way of life’. The lives of the Xe’cej have been filled with grotesque memoriesthat permeate into constant states of fear, arguably creating new culturalforms, but that were nevertheless imposed upon them when their own cosmologiesand kinship were used against them as a means of political weaponry. Greenpostulates that having death all around you becomes embodied as fear, but thatthis fear and trauma is expressed through the body; suffering differs person toperson yet the body remains a site of political and social resistance (Green1999: 247). I will briefly explore how the body can re-establish itself as asite with control by expressing signs of self-representation and identity. Byway of Mo Home, I will discuss how violence can frame the everyday by aweakening of communities.
The latter’culture of terror’, is a term used by Michael Taussig, in which he suggeststhat the Putumayo in the Amazon were victims of a brutal ‘culture of terror’that derived from the socio-political control inflicted by relentless abuse,forced labour, torture and execution, all in aid of rubber extraction. Theterror that Xe’cej community and the Putumayo community faced are an effect of persistentviolence inflicted by the state against its civilians. Although not drawing heavily on Abu-Lughod’sethnographic material, I use the basis of her ethnographies ‘Veiled Sentiments’and ‘Writing Women’s World’s’ to help facilitate a thread that highlights themany contradictions that have long since seduced anthropologists andphilosophers such as Abu-Lughod and Michael Taussig.
This will lead into a lookat affect theory and how it may be a more appropriate theoretical framework for’cultures of terror’ and ‘cultures of fear’. Affect is characterised byinstantaneous experiences and encounters that happen in a moment, which I arguesymbolises the ‘cultures’ more accurately. This will oppose what current mediaand news headlines suggest as the term terms ‘cultures of fear’ and ‘culture ofterror’ have swept into the mainstream. It is used widely when discussing themedia and unsurprisingly Islamophobia as a technique to inflict fear forpolitical objectives. What you’rearguing is that there is affect present in all 3 (Green, Taussig, Margold)All aredifferent (Margold – normalisation/reshaped norms, Taussig – terror RE: victimsAND perpetrators, Green: victims/embodied Normalization Within the process of violence, images contained inthe discourse of terror and images of power and its counterparts, are moulded andmaintained, temporarily achieving pellucidity; staying just enough time toinflict inequality, exclusion or harm, before spiralling into new meanings.
Discoursesof differences created by the spirals of meaning, fuel violent action, and thisviolent action is often inflicted upon the perceived ‘other’. D’Angelo suggeststhat violent phenomena is maintained and made worse by the act of writing(D’Angelo 85). In other words, by extracting a positioned understanding of acultural event and modelling it into a permanent and deducible ethnographictext, one runs the risk of perpetuating the violence depicted by casting it asstatic and inflexible. Therefore, it is important to visit the postmodern turnin anthropology to understand why Taussig attempts to counter ‘cultures ofterror’ by turning the discourse against itself (Taussig 1984: 471). (THIS DOESN’TMAKE SENSE HERE)