Trust Your Senses? War, Memory, and the Racist Nervous System

Back, Les. 2011. Trust Your Senses? War, Memory, and the Racist Nervous System. The Senses and Society, 6(3), pp. 306-324. ISSN 1745-8927 [Article]

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The article begins with a rereading of the wartime essays of Virginia Woolf and George Orwell on the nature and affects of aerial bombing. In each case it is argued that the experience of being bombed reveals something about the nature of nationalism and the education of the senses. It is suggested that Britain can be conceived as both a bombed and a bombing culture. An account of the relationship between colonial power and bombing is presented through a review of the work of critical war historians. In addition, a brief discussion is included of the historical amnesia regarding the role of colonial soldiers in the Second World War. It is suggested that contemporary debates about nationalism and racism would benefit from being informed by analytical conversations between militarism, formations of nationalism, and the issue of contemporary multiculturalism. The article develops the notion of the racist nervous systems as an analytical metaphor which foregrounds the affective qualities of racism. The article ends with a discussion of the relationship between these processes and multiculturalism, the “war on terror” and the role of the British army – many of whose recruits continue to come from Commonwealth countries – in global counterinsurgency.

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1 November 2011Published

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09 Oct 2013 08:22

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04 Jul 2017 14:10

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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