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The Affective Politics of Terror

The Affective Politics of Terror

(p.67) Three The Affective Politics of Terror
Mixed Emotions
Andrew A. G. Ross
University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates the powerful emotions associated with terrorist violence, showing that familiar emotions such as fear and anger were in fact highly adaptive responses— affected by prior normative commitments, evolving social practices, and historical memories. In the case of September 11, government-sponsored acts of racial profiling helped to forge the terrorist enemy as a racialized synthesis of Arab, Muslim, and Middle Eastern phenotypic and cultural stereotypes; the resulting constructions had a subtle but important impact on public tolerance for the use of force. The chapter uses a comparison to the Madrid bombings of 2004 to sharpen the contention that the emotions evoked by terrorist violence are shaped by the normative commitments, social practices, and emotional sensitivities present in a given context. Whereas the attacks of 9/11 mobilized popular support for war, the 3/11 bombings re-activated anti-war sentiment and sparked anger toward the Spanish government. The chapter shows that emotions such as fear and anger are not fixed, psychological responses but shifting composites of contagious affect.

Keywords:   Fear, Anger, Terrorism, Historical analogies, September 11, Anthrax, Madrid bombings, Anti-Arab sentiment, Islamophobia

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