The Scenography of Suicide: Terror, Politics and the Humiliated Witness

Bell, Vikki. 2005. The Scenography of Suicide: Terror, Politics and the Humiliated Witness. Economy and Society, 34(2), pp. 241-260. ISSN 0308-5147 [Article]


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Abstract or Description

It is argued here that the politics of suicide bombings can be seen to operate through the aesthetic responses they produce, insofar as these responses are provoked and in that they necessarily mobilise further responses. The article considers the scene of devastation created by a Chechen suicide bomber in Moscow in 2003. Drawing upon a reading of the political theory of Hannah Arendt that ties her to the tradition of thinking the sublime, it suggests that the 'aesthetic' impact of the scene dislocates the witness as well as simultaneously locating her/him in this world, a world in which such things happen. This location is a prompting to consider the world-in-common, the movements of the world, in a parallel sense to that in which the notion of the sublime has been employed to describe how the particular can have the ability to usher forth a feeling that there may be a super-sensible purposiveness to nature. At this prompting, the subject is humiliated and limited, since s/he becomes aware of the impossibility of adequately answering such questions, while 'ethically' her/his task is to nevertheless attempt some articulation of the connections so prompted. The article considers various ways in which that articulation might take place in relation to the Moscow bombing, and argues that these contested articulations constitute the 'political' level prompted in response to a scene of horror whose impact operates on the level of sensibility.

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suicide bombers, Chechnya, the sublime, Hannah Arendt, terror, politics

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Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2007

Last Modified:

12 Mar 2021 18:40

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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