The "War on Terror" Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality

The "War on Terror" Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality

The "War on Terror" Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality

The "War on Terror" Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality

Synopsis

The War on Terror Narrative analyzes three types of data--presidential speeches, U.S. media discourse, and focus group interviews--to provide a longitudinal and holistic study of the formation, circulation, and contestation of the Bush administration's narrative about the "war on terror." The narrative sustains, in Foucault's terms, a "regime of truth" by placing boundaries around what can meaningfully be said and understood about the subject. Adam Hodges illustrates that even as social actors resist the narrative and the policy it entails, they appropriate its language to be heard and understood. While this often works to strengthen the narrative, discourse is inevitably reshaped as it enters into new contexts. This recontextualization allows for the introduction of new meanings, and therein lies the potential for resistance and social transformation. Hodges argues that applying ideas on intertextuality to the analysis of political discourse is central to understanding the way micro-level discursive action contributes to macro-level cultural narratives like the Bush "War on Terror" narrative.

Excerpt

A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside of
it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat
it to us inexorably.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein (2001: 41)

By now, much has been written about the events of 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, supposed links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger, the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Force Base, the Downing Street minutes, the torture of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, the Geneva Convention deemed “quaint” by the Attorney General, the elimination of habeas corpus by Congress, waterboarding—in short, the multiple variations on the all-encompassing theme that Americans came to know as the “war on terror” during the Bush administration’s tenure in the White House. Given that the sine qua non of democracy is transparency and accountability, one hopes that Americans will persist in the search for greater understanding of these issues and practice democracy by entering into a healthy conversation about the past in an attempt to create a better future.

I write this book from the perspective of a sociocultural linguist interested in the discursive details of political interaction, but I also write as an American citizen deeply concerned with the response to 9/11 orchestrated by the Bush administration and the policy it pursued during its two terms in the White House. My position as a scholar cannot be decoupled from my position as an intellectual in a democratic . . .

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