Introduction: International Relations and “states of exception”

Shampa Biswas, Sheila Nair

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


On 11 September 2001, the United States was “attacked” by seemingly the most unlikely of weapons, three civilian aircrafts hijacked by several passengers associated with al-Qaeda and flown into twin symbols of American power: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth aircraft, presumably also en route to Washington, went down in a field in Pennsylvania. All told, estimates of the dead including the hijackers, crew, passengers and people in the targeted buildings number between 2, 700-3, 000. Since then the US has gone to war first in Afghanistan-the alleged hideout of al-Qaeda-in 2001, and in Iraq in 2002, ostensibly in response to the 9/11 attacks. These “wars” have resulted in thousands of civilians dead, wounded, and displaced in Afghanistan, anywhere from 600, 000 to 1 million dead and seriously wounded in Iraq, and over four million displaced Iraqis.1 In contrast to these fgures, we are told that the number of Americans dead, overwhelmingly members of the US military, stands around 4, 500. Yet, it is the American dead who are memorialized in the media, in architectural landmarks, books, political campaigns, and in neighborhoods where the casualties are disembodied from their context and viewed in isolation from the spectacle of violence in another country. Grief holds the imagined nation in a collective embrace. Unmanageable grief engulfed in unmanageable loss. In the wake of 9/11, a grieving nation seeks understanding and empathy from the rest of the world and is aghast at its response. In framing the “War on Terror” and the Iraq War the US president, George Bush, asserted: The Battle of Iraq is one victory in awar on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men-the shock troops of a hateful ideology-gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the “beginning of the end of America.” By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation’s resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Relations and States of Exception
Subtitle of host publicationMargins, Peripheries, and Excluded Bodies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781135251819
ISBN (Print)9780415776950
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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