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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Terror, Aesthetics, and the Humanities in the Public Sphere


In the early days of the Iraq War, the United States used the power of images, such as those of the “mother of all bombs” and a wide array of weapons, as well as aesthetic techniques to influence and shape the consciousness of millions and to generate strong support for the war. The shock, fear, and nationalism aroused in those days after 9/11 have enabled the Bush administration to pursue a military agenda that it had planned before 9/11. Since then the extraordinary death and destruction, scandals and illegalities, and domestic and international demonstrations and criticisms have been unable to alter the direction of this agenda. Those of us in the humanities who are trained as critical readers of political and social texts, as well as of complex artistically constructed texts, are needed now more urgently than ever to analyze the relationships between political power and the wide range of rhetorical methods being employed by politicians and others to further their destructive effects in the world.

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