Add to Cart. Words like "terrorism" and "war" no longer encompass the scope of contemporary violence. With this explosive book, Adriana Cavarero, one of the world's most provocative feminist theorists and political philosophers, effectively renders such terms obsolete. Unlike terror, horrorism is a form of violation grounded in the offense of disfiguration and massacre. Numerous outbursts of violence fall within Cavarero's category of horrorism, especially when the phenomenology of violence is considered from the perspective of the victim rather than that of the warrior.
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ISBN: How to name the constellation of violence, power and resistance that character- izes the contemporary political scene?
Are the traditional political categories sufficient for a representation of our contemporaneity? Can the language of this tradition aptly describe and interpret what is happening today? In the twentieth century violence spread and assumed unheard-of forms, and since September 11, , it marks the global everyday life in a way that escapes the old interpretive frameworks. We have no words to describe a form of violence that strikes everywhere, at any time, and main- ly defenceless civilians: the concepts from the past, like war or terrorism misleadingly confine this violence into categories unable to represent the new.
It makes no longer sense, for example, to discuss war in terms of regulated conflicts between states and the clas- sical model of a clash between men in uniform.
From its first account in the Homeric battle, this model entail reciprocal, symmetrical violence, and not unilateral violence inflicted upon the defenceless. Reciprocity is its fundamental principle, and terror is its essence. It makes no sense to insist on the criterion of the regularity of combatants, when the victims of any war are now civilians by a wide majority.
It is the horror of the scene that stands out, and from this horror a new conceptual and political framework must arise. The terrorist is no regular combatant who directs its fire against other combatants, hitting civilians only by mistake: to kill civilian is today most often the goal. These, however, are giv- en neither a place that accounts for their status nor a voice to represent it. The terror becomes thus horror. The terror which characterizes contemporary violence has lost its goals and thus cannot be defined as strategic.
The omnipotent dreams of military hypertechnology and the very concept of war the regular combatants still maintain they are fighting, shine for their emptiness. The enemy itself has become an indistinct, phantom-like shadow, indistin- guishable and unrepresentable. And torture, as epitomized by the pictures of Abu Gra- hib, reveals the mere horrorist face of a violence devoid, in both camps, of any goal or strategy.
Horror is not, of course, a novelty in the universal history of violence, and Cavare- ro goes a long way to retrace its semantic and iconographic roots in Greek mythology — a trademark of her writing.
Horror denotes a scene unbearable to look at, like that of bodies that blow themselves up in order to tear other bodies apart, dis- membering their own individuality and that of their victims. It is the terminological constellation of horror, Cavarero argues, that we need to use in order to describe and comprehend this new form of violence. The excursus into Greek mythology allows her to make another point: in the ico- nography of the misogynist, patriarchal West, it is two feminine figures, Medusa and Medea, which epitomize horror.
The severed head of Medusa symbolizes not only the unwatchable dismemberment of the body, but also the horror of the separation of the female head from the uterus and its reproductive function, to which the patriarchal nar- rative relegates women. Medea, killing her children, emphasizes not only the horror of a violence inflicted to the helpless par excellence, but also the horror of a woman that re- nounces her stereotypical reproductive function and gives death instead of life.
The fact that it is the very singularity of the victim that becomes accidental spells out the fundamental issue that the criterion of the helpless identifies: the superfluity of the human being. In other words, this is a vio- lence that goes beyond death and whose goal is not much death but the destruction of human singularity in its ontological dignity. Its figure is in fact the severed head of Medusa, epitome of a body dismembered, undone and disfigured, and thus attacked in its irremediable incarnated singularity.
A clear example is modern beheading: the crime is staged as an intentional offense to the ontological dignity of the victim. And this extreme violence, direct- ed at nullifying human beings even more than at killing them, relies on the semantics of horror rather than that of terror.
The slaughter of the defenceless is not a specialty of modernity, but the history of the twentieth century stages the ontological crime in forms and proportions never achieved before. The apex — though sure enough not the last instance — of horrorism was reached with the Nazi death camps.
The Muselmann, the outmost figure of almost grotesque helplessness, is paradoxically invulnerable, she signifies a stage of so extreme defencelessness that even vulnerability has been taken away from it. The issue is therefore, Cava- rero insists, not only ethical or political, but involves first and foremost the question of ontology: it is human nature as singular, unique and incarnated body, that is concerned. This is a concern that Cavarero, with Arendt, carries to a wider philosophical level.
The attack on singularity as the ontological dignity of the human being is in fact, accord- ing to Arendt, what characterizes the history of Western philosophy, which sacrificed human plurality on the altar of the absolutisation of the One. There is, significantly, no reciprocity in this relation to the other, but most of all what this erotic deindividualisation shuts off is the vision of the fundamental alternative that vulnerability offers, that between wound and care. The criterion of the helpless, in fact, not only provides the theoretical instruments to describe and represent contemporary violence, but also functions as ethical and po- litical standpoint.
The human, unique being is vulnerable by definition. For Butler, Cavarero emphasizes, vulnerability configures a human condition in which it is the relation to the other that counts and puts to the fore an ontology of linkage and dependence. Recognizing our common condition of vulnerability calls for a collective responsibility. And this exposure consigns primarily the subject to the vulnus, to the alternative between the wound that the other can inflict and the care that the other can provide.
Yet, there is nothing necessary in this vulnerability, only the contingent potential for the wound. In everyday use the term tends to designate a person who, attacked, has no arms with which to defend themselves. To be defenceless means to be in the power of the other and thus entails a condition of substantial passivity. The relation is unilateral, there is no reciprocity, no symmetry, no parity. The infant thus proclaims relationship as a human condition not just fundamental, but structurally necessary.
Therefore, the viewpoint of the defenceless, Cavarero argues, must be adopted exclusively: not merely as the only prospective from which contemporary violence can be really named, represented and understood, but also that from which subjectivity, relationality, ethics and politics must be rethought. Constitutional Patriotism. Princeton University Press. While Jaspers rejected the idea that the German people were collective- ly guilty, he believed nonetheless that they were in some way collectively responsible for the Holocaust.
While constitutional patriotism shares similar characteristics to other methods of achieving social cohesion, such as a shared national narrative characteristics such as a concern with memory and militancy , it differs from them by emphasizing a different social imaginary in this.
Related Papers. Encountering violence: terrorism and horrorism in war and citizenship. By cynthia weber and Cynthia Weber. By Elisabetta Bertolino. By Berta Subirats Ribas. By Gurur Ertem. What are the differences between Arendt and Weil's accounts of 'political beginnings'. Download pdf.
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Horrorism: Naming Contemporary Violence
Horrorism : Naming Contemporary Violence
Access options available:. Translated by William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press, In her recent book Horrorism: Naming Contemporary Violence, Adriana Cavarero makes a powerful and deeply researched case for confronting the limitations of our present vocabulary for describing acts of terrorism.
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