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

By Michael F. O'Riley | Go to book overview

Notes

INTRODUCTION

1. The essays assembled by Nayan Chanda and Strobe Talbott in the volume The Age of Terror rely upon the same phrase. Although the collection looks critically upon the idea of America as the fulcrum for the idea of the “age of terror,” it nonetheless centers its analysis on the United States. My focus in this book is not the United States, and the perspective I adopt targets the intersection of France and North Africa, in particular, Algeria. My use of the phrase the age of terror has a broader base than its use in the collection of essays assembled by Chanda and Talbott. I attempt to distance the phrase from any one national perspective. Instead, my intention is to demonstrate how the dynamics of victimization in relationship to colonial history are a large component of contemporary terror and frequently find themselves in direct relationship to their diverse incarnations. Although my focus here is more on the relationships between France and its former colonies, my central argument concerning the space of the victim as central to the dynamics of terror can be seen to have direct implications in the larger post–9/11 climate.

2. In Culture and Imperialism Edward Said writes of the desire to occupy or control the cultural position of the Other as a part of the underlying dynamics of imperialism: “Imperialism and the culture associated with it affirm both the primacy of geography and an ideology about the control of territory. The geographical sense makes projections — imaginative, cartographic, military, economic, historical, or in a general sense cultural” (78).

3. Postcolonial studies has widely regarded the representation of histories of colonial victimization as a salutary gesture of revisionist history designed to give voice to the formerly oppressed. Nonetheless, certain critics have warned, in different ways than this book does, of the unproblematic return of colonial history. Gayatri Spivak is arguably the most adamant concerning the vicissitudes of resurrecting the occulted colonial subject of history and advises the historian against viewing the subaltern as “object” of study (Spivak and Gunew). Spivak echoes Robert Young who signals “the hidden ways in which nominally radical, or oppositional historians and often unknowingly, or even knowingly, perpetuate the structures and presuppositions of the very systems which they oppose” (Colonial Desire 161–62). The haunting temporality of colonialism, however,

-161-

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