introduction

In this essay, I will be discussing how we encounter
the 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 to
the notion that these concepts are totalizing descriptions of the society and
all-encompassing definitions of civilian’s daily lives. Is there a way of
writing about cultural events and the ordinary lives of those affected by
violence that doesn’t run the risk of perpetuating the violence? The former, ‘culture
of fear’ is a concept used by Linda Green to describe how women in the Xe’cej
community of Guatemala, experience fear as a deeply infiltrating and embodied
‘way of life’. The lives of the Xe’cej have been filled with grotesque memories
that permeate into constant states of fear, arguably creating new cultural
forms, but that were nevertheless imposed upon them when their own cosmologies
and kinship were used against them as a means of political weaponry. Green
postulates that having death all around you becomes embodied as fear, but that
this fear and trauma is expressed through the body; suffering differs person to
person yet the body remains a site of political and social resistance (Green
1999: 247). I will briefly explore how the body can re-establish itself as a
site with control by expressing signs of self-representation and identity. By
way of Mo Home, I will discuss how violence can frame the everyday by a
weakening of communities.  The latter
‘culture of terror’, is a term used by Michael Taussig, in which he suggests
that 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. The
terror that Xe’cej community and the Putumayo community faced are an effect of persistent
violence inflicted by the state against its civilians.

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Although not drawing heavily on Abu-Lughod’s
ethnographic material, I use the basis of her ethnographies ‘Veiled Sentiments’
and ‘Writing Women’s World’s’ to help facilitate a thread that highlights the
many contradictions that have long since seduced anthropologists and
philosophers such as Abu-Lughod and Michael Taussig. This will lead into a look
at affect theory and how it may be a more appropriate theoretical framework for
‘cultures of terror’ and ‘cultures of fear’. Affect is characterised by
instantaneous experiences and encounters that happen in a moment, which I argue
symbolises the ‘cultures’ more accurately. This will oppose what current media
and news headlines suggest as the term terms ‘cultures of fear’ and ‘culture of
terror’ have swept into the mainstream. It is used widely when discussing the
media and unsurprisingly Islamophobia as a technique to inflict fear for
political objectives.

 

 

What you’re
arguing is that there is affect present in all 3 (Green, Taussig, Margold)

All are
different (Margold – normalisation/reshaped norms, Taussig – terror RE: victims
AND perpetrators, Green: victims/embodied

 

Normalization

 

Within the process of violence, images contained in
the discourse of terror and images of power and its counterparts, are moulded and
maintained, temporarily achieving pellucidity; staying just enough time to
inflict inequality, exclusion or harm, before spiralling into new meanings. Discourses
of differences created by the spirals of meaning, fuel violent action, and this
violent action is often inflicted upon the perceived ‘other’. D’Angelo suggests
that violent phenomena is maintained and made worse by the act of writing
(D’Angelo 85). In other words, by extracting a positioned understanding of a
cultural event and modelling it into a permanent and deducible ethnographic
text, one runs the risk of perpetuating the violence depicted by casting it as
static and inflexible. Therefore, it is important to visit the postmodern turn
in anthropology to understand why Taussig attempts to counter ‘cultures of
terror’ by turning the discourse against itself (Taussig 1984: 471). (THIS DOESN’T
MAKE SENSE HERE)