Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Violence
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
It’s been 25 years since Michel Rolph-Trouillot stated that the future of the discipline of anthropology depends on its “ability to challenge the savage slot and the thematiques that construct this slot” (1992: 18). Trouillot penned “The Savage Slot” as the discipline was coming to terms with its colonial legacy and responding to questions raised by anti-colonial movements for decades. Since its publication, a related apocalyptic other that is the figure of the terrorist has emerged to haunt the “geography of imagination” of the West. In thinking through the resuscitation of the new “savage” as the “terrorist,” anthropologists have begun to parse the history and conceptualization of the "terror slot" (Mamdani 2005; Masco 2014; Rana 2011, 2016), to show how culture and race talk surrounding Islam and terrorism circulates as truth on news media, policy, and political theater, and enters into everyday life with deep violent repercussions in war, racism, and settler colonialism.
Following this scholarship, this roundtable examines the terror slot from a number of ethnographic points of view across the globe to examine the circumstances and effects of this terror talk. While the politics of refusal (Simpson 2014) has had repercussions for settler colonial critique in thinking through anti-racist and anti-colonial politics in the colonial present of settler societies. In this roundtable, we highlight another type ethnographic refusal, by looking at the lack of anthropological engagement and reflection on the effects of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) on communities, places, sites that have been at the receiving end across the globe (not just the pilots, soldiers who participate in the wars). We argue that Anthropology has disengaged from the GWOT by refusing to play a significant role in condemning the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Israeli state’s aggression against Palestinian refugee populations in Gaza. This is especially true when we compare the important role played by Anthropologists in documenting the violence in Latin American throughout the 1980's-1990's, yet the discipline has had relatively little to say about the terror slot. How can approach this "Ethnographic Refusal" in terms of GWOT? How do anthropologists engage in a politics of reflection that does not reproduce the savage gaze of representation, but rather one that highlights the reciprocal processes of militarism, surveillance, and racialization? Participants in this roundtable draw from recent ethnographic projects in diverse settings, including the United States, Kenya, Pakistan and Afghanistan.