Synopses & Reviews
Theand#160; phrase and#8220;War on Terrorand#8221; has quietly been retired from official usage, but it persists in the American psyche, and our understanding of it is hardly complete. Nor will it be, W. J. T Mitchell argues, without a grasp of the images that it spawned, and that spawned it.
Exploring the role of verbal and visual images in the War on Terror, Mitchell finds a conflict whose shaky metaphoric and imaginary conception has created its own reality. At the same time, Mitchell locates in the concept of clones and cloning an anxiety about new forms of image-making that has amplified the political effects of the War on Terror. Cloning and terror, he argues, share an uncanny structural resemblance, shuttling back and forth between imaginary and real, metaphoric and literal manifestations. In Mitchelland#8217;s startling analysis, cloning terror emerges as the inevitable metaphor for the way in which the War on Terror has not only helped recruit more fighters to the jihadist cause but undermined the American constitution with and#8220;faith-basedand#8221; foreign and domestic policies.
Bringing together the hooded prisoners of Abu Ghraib with the cloned stormtroopers of the Star Wars saga, Mitchell draws attention to the figures of faceless anonymity that stalk the ever-shifting and unlocatable and#8220;frontsand#8221; of the War on Terror. A striking new investigation of the role of images from our foremost scholar of iconology, Cloning Terror will expand our understanding of the visual legacy of a new kind of war and reframe our understanding of contemporary biopower and biopolitics.
and#8220;In this heady brew of biopolitics and biotechnology, W. J. T. Mitchell explores some of the greatest terror of our timesand#8212;the fears that claim us and chain us. His deft and defiant reading of the technologies of image-making lays bare the brutality and banality of the war on terror. This is a passionate and polemical engagement with reality and representation.and#8221;
and#8220;This is a brilliant and wide-ranging book that considers the role of images in the recent war on terror, locating a new logic of reproduction within the visual field. The centrality of imagery for understanding and waging the so-called war on terror is widely discussed, but few scholars are able to trace the animating effects of reproducible images with Mitchelland#8217;s acuity. Here we find a restatement of the and#8216;pictorial turnand#8217; in the context of the Bush years and in the present when the icon of Obama remains a site of conflicted investment.and#160;Cloning Terror
will surely become indispensable reading for a wide public of readers interested in cultural and literary criticism, visual studies, history of art, and political analysis.and#8221;and#8212;Judith Butler, author of Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
and Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?
and#8220;Forget What Do Pictures Want?and#8212;
the inspired title and theme of one of W. J. T. Mitchelland#8217;s earlier triumphs.and#160;The question is what do we
want?and#160;The answer to which couldnand#8217;t be simpler:and#160;More Mitchell! In this, his latest entertainment, and a darkly unsettling one at that, the sly magus trains his eyes on the sorry times just past, decanting an entirely fresh instance of the sort of recombinant iconographies for which he is becoming so celebrated. A master theorist of political aesthetics, he does what all the great theorists going back to the Greeks are called upon to do: he gives us fresh eyes to see, and at a moment when the need for such clearsightedness couldnand#8217;t be more urgent.and#8221;
andldquo;In publishing there is a difference between making a splash and actually making waves. Brownandrsquo;s work has done both. He opens his lens this time to a wide array of aesthetic and cultural objects from indigenous ethnographic sculpture to the kitsch memorabilia of 9/11. Along the way, there are readings devoted to material objects in canonical literature and more popular contemporary writing. Holding all this together in the force field of Brownandrsquo;s lucid prose are his steadily surprising insights into andlsquo;things otherandrsquo; than meet the eye in such object matter. This new book, too, will be not only applauded but widely consulted.andrdquo;
The humanities continue to ride a wave of interest in the material or phenomenological object world. Early in the boom in what we might call Thing Studies, Brown observed that andldquo;these days you can read books on the pencil, the zipper, the toilet, the banana, the chair, the potato, the bowler hat.andrdquo;and#160; By now the list is a good deal longer. How should we understand the broad spotlight now being cast on the inanimate object world within various disciplines? This book sets out to answer that question by reference to objects as various as puppets and glass plate, writers ranging from Virginia Woolf to Philip K. Dick, and artists as various as Rodin and Man Ray. Taken together, the essays in Other Things explain modernismandrsquo;s investment in disclosing an object world whose enchantment persists in the face of disenchantment. Working with conceptual tools derived from the work of Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Lacan, Brown advances an object/thing distinction that grasps the unanticipated force of an object, no matter how banal that object may be. For Brown, gaining purchase on the world we inhabit requires theory to engage the everyday object world, just as it requires us to ask new questions of material culture, including the question of what we mean by materiality itself.
From the pencil to the puppet to the droneandmdash;the humanities continue to ride a wave of interest in material culture and the world of things. How should we understand the force and figure of that wave as it shapes different disciplines? In Other Things
, Bill Brown explores this question by considering an assortment of objectsandmdash;from beach glass to cell phones, sneakers to skyscrapersandmdash;that have fascinated a range of writers and artists, including Virginia Woolf, Man Ray, Spike Lee, and Don DeLillo.
Brown ranges across the literary, visual, and plastic arts to depict the curious lives of things.and#160; Beginning with Achillesandrsquo;s Shield, then tracking the object/thing distinction as it appears in the work of Martin Heidegger and Jacques Lacan, he ultimately focuses on the thingness disclosed by specific literary and artistic works. Combining history and literature, criticism and theory, Brown provides a new way of understanding the inanimate object world and the place of the human within it, encouraging us to think anew about what we mean by materiality itself.
About the Author
W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, the Department of Art History, and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of fourteen previous books, including What Do Pictures Want?, winner of the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association. He is also editor of the journal Critical Inquiry.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Preface. For a War on Error
1 War Is Over (If You Want It)
2 Cloning Terror
4 Autoimmunity: Picturing Terror
5 The Unspeakable and the Unimaginable: Word and Image in a Time of Terror
7 The Abu Ghraib Archive
8 Documentary Knowledge and Image Life
9 State of the Union, or Jesus Comes to Abu Ghraib
Conclusion. A Poetics of the Historical Image