Cinema in an Age of Terror: North Africa, Victimization, and Colonial History

Cinema in an Age of Terror: North Africa, Victimization, and Colonial History

Cinema in an Age of Terror: North Africa, Victimization, and Colonial History

Cinema in an Age of Terror: North Africa, Victimization, and Colonial History

Synopsis

Cinema in an Age of Terror looks at how cinematic representations of colonial-era victimization inform our understanding of the contemporary age of terror. By examining works representing colonial history and the dynamics of spectatorship emerging from them, Michael F. O'Riley reveals how the centrality of victimization in certain cinematic representations of colonial history can help us understand how the desire to occupy the victim's position is a dangerous and blinding drive that frequently plays into the vision of terrorism. Films such as The Battle of Algiers, Days of Glory, Caché, and recent works by Maghrebien filmmakers all exemplify, in different ways, how this focus on victimization can become a problematic perspective-one in fact seeking to occupy ideological territory. Their return of colonial history to our contemporary context, although frequently problematic, enables us to see how victimization is very much about territory-cultural, spatial, and ideological-and how resistance to new forms of imperialist warfare and terror today must be located outside these haunting images from colonial history. Although such images of victimization ultimately only return as spectacular acts that draw our attention away from the cyclical contest over territory that they embody, those images nonetheless have the last word.
Michael F. O'Riley is an associate professor of French and Italian at Colorado College. He is the author of Francophone Culture and the Postcolonial Fascination with Ethnic Crimes and Colonial Aura and Postcolonial Haunting and Victimization: Assia Djebar's New Novels.

Excerpt

Crumpling trade towers, suicide bombers, burning embassies, and tortured bodies have become commonplace images of what one might term the age of terror. Such images not only highlight the victimization of the perpetrated but also of the author of such acts, the terrorist. These spectacles of victimization raise questions as to what we are to do with such images and what type of response is appropriate. When accompanied by discourses referencing imperialist oppression as an underlying motivation, they also demonstrate the centrality of victimization and imperialist history in terrorist acts that have become commonplace today. The history of Western imperialism, for instance, was noted by terrorists as a key motivation in the World Trade Center attacks. My use of the phrase “the age of terror” is meant to designate a tendency in the post–cold war era of reciprocal forms of terrorism and torture where victimization referencing colonial history functions as a central organizing tenet of national and international relations. While it is beyond the scope . . .

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