The Figure of the Terrorist in Literature, Film and Media

8.-9. November 2019, Universität Zürich, Rämistrasse 71, 8006 Zürich, KO2-F-152

In their pioneering 1996 study Terror and Taboo, cultural anthropologists Joseba Zulaika and William Douglass point out a curious paradox in the contemporary preoccupation with terrorism: whereas the topic of terrorism has been ubiquitous in Western public discourse since the late twentieth century, the voices of terrorists themselves are usually silenced. Zulaika and Douglass explain this by suggesting that the terrorist is »the paradigm of inhuman bestiality, the quintessential proscribed or tabooed figure of our times.«
According to political scientist Richard Jackson, the tabooing of terrorists not only affects debates about actual perpetrators of politically motivated violence, but also fictional representations in literature and film, where terrorists tend to be »dehumanized, demonized, and most importantly, depoliticized.« He adds: »In all the thousands of popular and literary novels, all the newspaper columns and news reports, all the movies and television shows and even in many academic books and articles, terrorists are virtually always depicted in stereotypical terms and as caricatures of what we imagine terrorists to be – fanatical, extremist, aggressive, hateful, dysfunctional, damaged.« Using this sweeping – and deliberately provocative – statement as a starting point, the international conference The Figure of the Terrorist will be the first to approach the »tabooing« of the terrorist from an interdisciplinary and historically comparative perspective. Does the »condemnation imperative« to which terrorism is subjected preclude an empathetic identification with the perpetrator and his or her agenda?
The conference is organized by Michael C. Frank (UZH) and Maria Flood (Universität Keele, GB).

Crisis and Communitas: Performative Concepts of Commonality in Arts and Politics

14-15 November 2019, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst,  Limmatstrasse 270, 8005 Zurich

Crisis is a term increasingly heard these days – climate crisis, migration crisis, crisis of representation, identity, masculinity... Contemporary societies often react to crises by installing mechanisms of classification and order. Identitarian communities perceive themselves as an antidote to personal and social crises.

Our goal is to ask how crises bring about movement and the transgression of borders – be they social or racial, cultural or political, state or institutional borders. Thus, we invite to think about new forms of communitas, of inclusionary bonding across discursive borders. Instead of searching for common traits, it embraces diversity and difference through the interaction of bodies and their communicative performativity. Migration, shifting contexts and bodily movement are explored as a trajectory of self-empowerment and agency. Crisis frames new political utopias.

In three panels, we are exploring the aesthetics and politics of commonality, the way bodies and affects constitute the commonal power, and how knowledge migrates in the context of arts. The programme includes presentations by an international group of researcher and is accompanied by a keynote lecture by Susan Buck-Morss, lectures by curators Adam Szymczyk and Marc Streit, as well as the screening of the film Via Carpatia (2018).

The symposium is organized by the project team Crisis and Communitas (Prof. Dr. Dorota Sajewska, Dr. Nina Seiler, Tadeusz Koczanowicz, MA, Sandra Biberstein) and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. See www.crisisandcommunitas.com