RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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38 Changing landscapes / Changing the landscapes of terror and threat: materialities, bodies, ambiances, elements (2) Roundtable
Affiliation Political Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Sara Fregonese (University of Birmingham, UK)
Suncana Laketa (University of Sts Gallen, Switzerland)
Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University, France)
Chair(s) Sara Fregonese (University of Birmingham, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 29 August 2018, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Main Building - Small Chemistry Lecture Theatre
Session abstract We are witnessing an upsurge of deadly acts of terrorism. In Western Europe, for example, the number of incidents has remained stable, but deadly attacks have increased, from 2.7% in 2012 to 7.2% in 2015 and 11.2% in 2016 (Source: Global Terrorism Database). The landscapes of terror and terror threat are complexly interwoven with those of conflict, radicalization, grievance and displacement in and from the Middle East and the so-called Islamic State. While IR and terrorism studies struggle to analyze, index and measure the increasingly elusive structures of Jihadi terrorism, and critical security scholars assess the deployment and effectiveness of counter-terrorism measures, the contemporary impact of jihadi terror and terror threat on the everyday landscapes are understudied.
The session addresses this gap, by bringing attention to new spacings of terror and terror threat that go beyond the representational, state-centred, and territorial framings of national security, risk and resilience, geopolitics and identity studies. Katz’s work on security, performativity and the everyday urban environment (Katz 2007) is updated here and the research question and analysis pushed further into the everyday visceral materialities, bodily experiences, elemental aspects and ambiances/atmospheres that compose the changing landscapes of terror and terror threat.
Conversely, terror and terror threat as research objects might provoke epistemic shifts within the paradigms underlying the ‘atmospheric turn’, notably by shifting their phenomenological focus towards a critical and (geo)political one. If so, in what ways can affective and atmospheric sensitivities be reconciled with social and cultural understandings and engagements with terror and terror threat?

We invite papers that address the above points within themes including:

- Living with to terror and terror threat
- Responding, reacting, coping, absorbing: extraordinary violence and ordinary experiences
- Governing/regulating public experiences of and responses to terror
- Studying terror within the atmospheric turn
- More-than-human landscapes of terror and terror threat
- Performances of terror/security in public space?
- Elemental geographies of terrorism and terror threat
- Atmospheric/material/elemental/bodily histories of urban terror and terror threat
- Representing, visualizing and/or mapping the everyday, embodied, elemental and ambient geographies of terror fear and threat
- Collecting, grasping, and other sensory methodologies to understand the mundane feelings/affects/intensities of terror and terror threat
Linked Sessions Changing landscapes / Changing the landscapes of terror and threat: materialities, bodies, ambiances, elements (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Strongholds of violence and forms-of-death: The legacies of spatial violence in the Juarez region, Mexico, since 2006
Ricardo Marten Caceres (University College London, UK)
The recent history of spatial violence that has plagued the border city of Juárez, Mexico, and its adjoining valley is an outstanding period in an otherwise continuous trajectory of social turbulence that has intensified at different points in over a century. The case of Juárez’s region is also the culmination of a convoluted continental assemblage that, precisely at this point –at this territory– reaches a formidable physical end, the border with the United States. This paper wishes to address the entrenchment of violence that resulted from a failed war on drugs (where over 120,000 people have died in a decade nationwide) and the resultant spatial fracture that has emerged in the region.

The processes that led to the brutal effects of violence in this region can be identified as part of a systemic malfunction of governance that facilitated its development into a still ongoing period of social, political and territorial fracture. Rather than focus on the aftermath and the human casualties, this paper will also argue that the problem of violence in Juárez can be explained as the result of the willing intersection between a cornered political apparatus and a relentless criminal industry, a confrontation that once triggered produced a devastating effect on the urban fabric of the city and which to this day claims an even darker legacy in the ways space seems unable to recover.

The argument will attempt to connect the configuration of violence as an assemblage of processes, placing particular emphasis on the effects that violence and terror had on Juarez’s planning measures and, in parallel, the sudden visibility of death as part of a macabre public spectacle. The interactions and relations between these dimensions, where violence takes its myriad forms, will help to introduce a territorial analysis that considers the moving parts that constitute spatial violence.

On hearing the roar of war still trapped inside: the reverberation of wartime trauma, and of the bunker, in Paul Virilio’s analysis of Pure War and Hyperterrorism.
Luke Bennett (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
“Occasionally I would put my ear against the bunker’s hardened shell to catch the roar of war still trapped inside” writes Sylvère Lotringer (Virilio & Lotringer, 2002) echoing Paul Virilio’s own captivation by these relics of the Total War of his childhood. Virilio’s account of his own first-encounter with the ruins of a Nazi bunker (Virilio, 1994), is a profoundly intimate and tactile phenomenological exploration of a terror-object. His experience provoked a heady mix of fear and fascination: fear in its recall of the deadly terror he had witnessed as a boy in wartime Nantes; fascination in the affordances presented by the affective materiality of these alien structures; and both fear and fascination in his sensing of the hostility of local residents to his untimely interest in these shunned structures of an enemy occupation. This presentation will look at how Virilio’s subsequent theorising of the evolution of war and terror has been haunted by his wartime formative experiences. These (and ‘the bunker’) resonate throughout his aphoristic writings on the Pure War condition of the Cold War, the subsequent transition to ‘hyperterrorism’, and “the emergency return of the ‘walled city’ and of the bunkerization that is blighting cities everywhere” (Virilio, 2005). A longitudinal, biographical approach will enable a critical examination of the apparent equivalence given by Virilio to the hot terror of the Nazi occupation, the cold terror of the nuclear standoff and the chaotic terror of contemporary hyperterrorism, each with their own logics for the “administration of fear” (Virilio, 2012).
Roundtable - Changing landscapes / Changing the landscapes of terror and threat: developing research avenues.
Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Jon Coaffee (University of Warwick, UK)
Sara Fregonese (University of Birmingham, UK)
Suncana Laketa (University of Sts Gallen, Switzerland)
Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University, France)