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As Long As It’s Not in My Backyard: September 11th and Other Apocalyptic Events

Abstract: This article analyzes the effects of the events of September 11th on American discourse. The author argues that the events of September 11th have been discursively produced as “unique” and unconnected to other acts of terror across the globe. The “uniqueness” of September 11th and the personal terror it has evoked in American discourse facilitates the reproduction of other acts of terror, and their images, outside the United States as part of the mundanity of the everyday news media. The article revolves around four themes: 1) the binary racialized construction of “the American” versus “the Arab,” 2) the happening of events as chaotic versus the desire for social order and control, 3) the construction of September 11th as a “unique” event unconnected to other apocalyptic events, and 4) the mundanity of atrocities in the media versus the emotional upheaval resulting from the events of September 11th.


One of the most bizarre images I witnessed recently was the hysteria (no Freudian gendered, sexed pun intended) put forth by Ross Perot, featured on Larry King Live the night of February 20, 2002, discussing the need (Perot’s emphasis — not mine) for everyone in the United States to arm themselves (as is The Great American Tradition in that Texas-shoot-first-ask-questions-later interpretation of “the right to bear arms” clause in the American Constitution) and band together against the possibility of a future September 11th. Perot’s crazed, tyrannical rant focused on berating all eligible youth to join the army and protect themselves and “their country” from all future potential incidents as the September 11th (2001) atrocity. Now keeping in mind that in this particular instance the message came packaged in “Ross Perot format,” which seems to take on a unique character all of its own, the hysteria, paranoia, and downright fear (albeit not completely without cause; I too felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up watching each of the Twin Towers collapse, and later the devastating images of New York City’s downtown core) put forth by Perot was an expression that cannot simply be reduced to the imagery imbued in Ross Perot “the man” himself. Rather, Perot’s tirade is symbolic of the national sentiment and national consciousness (however essentialized) displayed in the American media.

In response to watching Perot’s diatribe on CNN, the questions that come to mind are: What makes the events of September 11th different from other acts of terror across the globe? What makes this event different from the constant barrage of images of acts of terror on the nightly news? What makes those images mundane, and the images of September 11th frightening? This article attempts to address these questions. I am arguing that the events of September 11th have been discursively produced as “unique” and unconnected to other historical and present day acts of terror around the world. The “uniqueness” of September 11th and the personal terror it has evoked in American discourse facilitates the reproduction of other acts of terror, and their images, outside the United States as part of the mundanity of the everyday news media. This article revolves around four themes: 1) the binary racialized construction of “the American” versus “the Arab”; 2) the happening of events as chaotic versus the desire for social order and control; 3) the construction of September 11th as a “unique” event unconnected to other apocalyptic events; and 4) the mundanity of atrocities in the media versus the emotional upheaval resulting from the events of September 11th.

Would The Real American Please Stand Up

No matter how frightening the images (and reality) of the September 11th destruction, what became even more scary was the immediate and continuing discourse that produced two essentialized and distinct opposing categories of “the United States” (read: the innocent victim of devastation), known as “Us,” versus “the Arabs” (read: the evil perpetrators of undue violence and harm), known as “The Enemy.” Although “The Enemy” was singled out as Osama bin Laden, his image nonetheless signified and personified an entire racialized community. Osama bin Laden’s image was not simply his own, but symbolized all Arabs in the American imagination. Rather than being seen as an individual with his own particular political agenda, he was produced as the representative of all Arabs. His image, plastered all over CNN and other American news media, signified Arabness as synonymous with “terrorist.”

This discursive image of bin Laden was substantially different than the image constructed of Timothy McVeigh (of the Oklahoma bombings). At no point was McVeigh produced or perceived as representative of the entire white Anglo-Saxon community. Instead, the image of McVeigh was of an aberrant (read: psychologically unstable) individual. As a white Anglo-Saxon male, McVeigh is included in the notion of “Us.” As a result, he constitutes part of the community we perceive as providing safety, security and protection for “Us” against the Other who wishes “Us” harm. It is too traumatic to imagine or think that one of “Us” could have done such a horrendous act as either the Oklahoma bombings or September 11th to another member of “Us.” To make sense of the McVeigh case, we need to rationalize these actions as those of a lone “madman.”

Nationalist discourses, and particularly with respect to Perot’s “call to arms” against “The Enemy” focus on the notion that membership in the “Us,” the nation, provides a sense of security, safety and refuge for its members. These discourses emphasize the nation as a contained entity threatened by outside forces wishing to destroy it and its members. The illusion of the nation as a place of safety and security is reified through state bureaucratic organizations, such as the military, federal intelligence organizations and immigration and citizenship/naturalization departments, that produce the sense that “The Enemy” and other dangers that threaten our welfare are outside the realm of “Us.” Thus, horrors and other atrocities perpetrated on “Us” must come from “out there,” from someone/something outside the notion of “Us.” We should not forget that for a long while, investigations of the Oklahoma bombings focused on finding a perpetrator (or a group of perpetrators) who was not white and Anglo-Saxon, but a racialized Other; hence, someone who was not one of “Us.”

In terms of the September 11th attacks, “The Enemy” has been discursively produced as a visible racialized entity that exists outside of the nation. The notion of the nation, in this case the United States, is produced as a homogenous entity comprising one people, Americans. “We” become imagined as one people, Americans, juxtaposed to “The Enemy.” American news reports of the crisis produced images of “Americans” as an unmarked group of people. For example, media images showed family photographs of Americans who had been killed at some point during the crisis, either aboard one of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers or had been in the Towers when they collapsed. These pictures were always taken prior to the crisis and consisted of the victims in everyday American family settings. These photographs, which were played on CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC news reports, were meant to evoke empathy from its American audience. Specifically, the images were intended to create the basis of a nationalistic oneness with other Americans. When we view these news clips, we are supposed to see ourselves and our lives. As “Americans,” we share an imagined common bond with those directly affected in the World Trade Centre collapse. In contrast, images of Afghanistan and the Afghani people were meant to evoke a completely different reaction. Video clips of Afghani people in traditional (non-Western) dress, speaking Arabic (not English), worshipping Islam (non-Western religion), and living in poverty-stricken, desert, non-Western conditions were meant to reinforce how removed and different “We” are from “The Enemy.” In essence, the image produced of “who” is “American” is at odds with the image of “who” is an “Arab.”

“The Enemy” is also constituted as an homogenous entity, but one that is marked and racialized; different from “Us.” The marking of “The Enemy” occurs through the use of racialized images that signify “Arabness.” These markings symbolize the social meanings attached to specific physical and cultural characteristics, both real and imagined, that are produced as social signifiers of “Arabness” (Miles 1989; 1993; Frankenberg 1993). For example, specific characteristics such as skin colour, hair colour and texture, eye colour and shape, cultural practices and behavioral traits, among other attributes, are imbued with social meanings that signify particular racialized identities (Miles 1989; 1993; Gilman 1991). Since the September 11th crisis, pictures of Arab-looking males have been plastered across American news reports and used to reinforce in the American imagination what “The Enemy” looks like. The processes of racialization erase how signifiers and symbols of race are social constructs, and naturalize these attributes as innate and biological (Miles 1989; 1993). These social processes mark “The Enemy” as a visible racialized entity. The imagery of “The Enemy” is juxtaposed to the image of Americans. “We” as Americans constitute and signify an unmarked category (read: white).[1] This imagery reinforces the normalization of whiteness in the American imagination.

Through the use of various forms of subordinating, racialized imagery, “The Enemy” is represented as an impersonal, inferior objectified entity. This imagery serves to exacerbate the social construction of “The Enemy’s” cultural and moral difference from “Us.” One only needs to think of the media’s portrayal of Muslims/Arabs as inhumane, uncivilized and immoral. The oppositional imagery of “Us” and “Them” has been emphasized through the media’s discourse of difference. For example, images of “Us” versus “Them” have been juxtaposed through the following imagery and discourse: Americans/Arabs, First World/Third World, civilized/uncivilized, industrialized/primitive, cultured/backward, faithful God fearing people (read: “good Christians”)/worshippers of Islam (read: religious lunatics), moral/immoral, and innocent victims/murderers. This kind of imagery facilitates our sense of disconnectedness from “The Enemy,” and thus, is responsible for our inability to identify with “Them.”

The binary relationship between “Us” and “The Enemy” is further emphasized through nationalist discourses that produce the latter as an entity outside the nation in terms of both proximity and as a common people sharing a common bond (Anderson 1983; Gilroy 1987; 1993). The notion of “Us” refers to a group of people sharing an imagined common national, historical, racial and cultural identity inside specific geographic boundaries (Anderson 1983). The notion of a common “Us” is an illusion, or, as Anderson (1983) argues, imagined. Using Anderson’s notion of communities and nations as imagined entities, the notion of a common “Us” is wholly constructed, and not a natural phenomenon (Anderson 1983). Yet, nationalist discourses of “Us” and “Them” make these imagined communities real through people’s everyday lives in how they find themselves positioned in terms of membership and belonging within the nation, as either “Us” or “Them,” and the privileges or denial of rights that may result from inclusion or exclusion.

It is important to keep in mind that the United States is a country of immigrants, and as a result, the United States is home to many American-Arabs. Yet, because the racialized image of “The Enemy” represents all Arabs, the notion of the nation must necessarily exclude American-Arabs from being able to be part of the nation. American-Arabs are constituted as a political entity excluded from and in opposition to the nation of the United States. The production of categories of “Us” and “Them” are exclusive and contained. Hence, being Arab does not allow one to belong to the nation. Nationalist discourses make sense of the presence of Arab citizens in the United States by emphasizing the image of “The Enemy Amongst Us.” In other words, while American-Arabs may be citizens of the United States and live there, they do not belong to the nation.[2] Nationalist discourses are able to easily produce a viable “Enemy From Within” through marked essentialized racialized imagery of “the Arab” (Gilroy 1987). This imagery produces an image of “The Enemy” that is easy to communicate, conceptualize and identify within and among the American public.

Perot’s “call to arms” against “The Enemy” has grave consequences in the material lives of American-Arabs living in the United States. “The Enemy” has been produced as a visible racialized entity (i.e., Arab) and therefore knowable in an immediately identifiable sense. As a result, innocent individuals who supposedly “look” like “The Enemy” (whatever that means in the American imagination) but are American citizens might have experienced being ostracized, discriminated against, and having lost their civil liberties as a result of their racialized identity, rather than by the virtue of their own personal politics, actions (or inaction) and identifications. Thus, while American-Arabs may have been citizens of the United States, they do not have entitlement and membership in the nation because they have been regarded as “The Enemy Within.”

The construction of a concrete and knowable enemy has been necessary to facilitate, legitimate and rationalize the arrests and abusive treatment of Arab-Americans in the aftermath of the attacks. During this period, a number of Americans who “looked” Arab (including Arab-Americans, Israeli-Americans and South Asian-Americans living in the United States) were detained and questioned by authorities under the auspices of their possible involvement in the attacks solely on the basis of their being identified as “Arab.” Under the guise of “national security,” American officials were able to randomly demand various Arab-Americans explain their whereabouts and general existence in the United States by producing proper citizenship and other identification papers. CNN showed interviews with Arab-Americans and South-Asian Americans who felt they could not leave their homes, even to travel a few miles, without having all of their citizenship, passport and identification papers on them. People feared being jailed by American authorities because they would mistakenly be seen as a “terrorist” because they “looked” Arab.

This discursive visibility of “The Enemy” has been particularly important for easy identification of “The Enemy Outside” (Arabs in the Middle East) and “The Enemy Within” (Arabs living in the United States).[3] It is the production of “The Enemy Within” that legitimizes the harassment that many American-Arabs experienced in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. This racialized imagery enabled nationalist discourses to exclude American-Arabs from membership and belonging in the nation.

Listening to the discourse espoused in the American national consciousness and the American media in particular, one gains a strong racialized image of “who” is an American citizen and “who” is not. These communities or categories are produced and reified as separate, distinct and contained entities. They do not overlap. To be a member of one racialized category necessarily disqualifies one from belonging to the racialized community that constitutes the image of the nation (Gilroy 1987). Even more so, this racialized imagery appears to be fixed, static and biological. In other words, these racialized images are exclusive and naturalized through the discourse of the American media. There is no choice in membership. Rather, being (or “looking”) Arab means being hegemonically placed in the category of “The Enemy,” no matter what one’s politics, affiliations or citizenship. It means being immediately found guilty of perpetrating evil in the Courts of American Public Opinion on the basis of one’s racialized identity.

The pathological racialized imagery imbued in the notions of “Us” and “Them” denies how these constructs are products of discursive processes and practices that organize and order society, and ultimately produce our social and material realities. The categorization of people into racialized subjects allows for the binary production of “the good” (read: the United States) versus “the bad” (read: Arabs). These oppositional categories remove any and all complications and render the events of September 11th down to the most basic intelligible, simplistic and comprehensible elements of “Us” versus “Them.” The processes of racialization make identifying who “They” are immediate (Miles 1989; 1993). These processes of racialization facilitate arresting individuals in the post-trauma aftermath, which ultimately provide a means of reintroducing social order and control as “They” become immediately identifiable. This produces the illusion that the possibility of future traumatic events can be mitigated and prevented. It is no surprise that systemic racism is central to reinstating and reproducing social order and control.


Perot’s “call to arms” is a desperate plea for social order in the United States to be reinstated, and for American life to return to normalcy (in that essentialized image of middle America). The catastrophic acts of September 11th remind us of the unthinkable; that events always occur in chaos (Haver 1994). Chaos, however, is not conducive to social organization and order. For society to be controlled and ruled, it must be made sensible and rational. Thus, for social order to exist, the events of September 11th need to appear as an aberration that can now be prevented in the future by a variety of factors, including heightened military security, surveillance and intelligence. In other words, acts of terrorism need to appear controllable, even though they are inevitably uncontrollable and chaotic (Haver 1994). For the aftermath of the event to seem controllable, crises must be rationalized (Haver 1994).

The rationalization of events rests entirely on the illusion of our complete knowledge of the event. If September 11th appears not only aberrant, but preeminent, then the occurrence of the events of September 11th can be rationalized and legitimized on the basis that they could not have been foreseen. For normalcy (read: social order) to be resumed, and for the American public to be able to return to their pre-September 11th lives, there is a need for such acts to appear to be controllable, preventable and avoidable in the future. For an incident to seem controllable and/or preventable, it must appear that all aspects of the event are knowable, and therefore foreseeable. This can only happen if the events of September 11th seem to occur within a specific rational chronological time frame or pattern (Haver 1994). The event itself and the chronology of the attacks must appear orderly and predictable. Yet, the happening of events can only be perceived as orderly and chronological in hindsight. The present and future are always chaotic and unpredictable.[4] However, it is too traumatic for us to acknowledge the present and future as unforeseeable and uncontrollable. Thus, we need to believe that history and hindsight will provide us with the illusion that catastrophes and atrocities can be prevented. For example, George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” which consists largely of targeting American-Arabs and severely tightening immigration restrictions, creates the illusion that future acts of terrorism are being mitigated and prevented. It is this illusion that allows us to resume our everyday lives in the aftermath of crisis and chaos.

I would also argue that the visible racialization of “The Enemy” facilitates the reinstatement of social order in the United States in the traumatic aftermath of the September 11th attacks. “The Enemy” symbolizes chaos and calamity to the social order of society.[5] The production of “The Enemy” as a visible and marked racialized entity allows for what is chaotic in society (“The Enemy”) to be easily identifiable. Thus, “The Enemy,” including Arabs living in the Middle East and more specifically, American-Arabs living in the United States, can be known and dealt with immediately through various means, such as surveillance, detainment and arrests. The illusion of “The Enemy” as a knowable and identifiable entity enables social order to be quickly reinstated. Even more so, the marked image of “The Enemy” allows the American public to believe that future atrocities can be prevented by targeting one particular racialized community.

Catastrophes and atrocities are, by nature, unpredictable and unforeseeable. Essentially, that is how they occur. Yet, it is too traumatic for us to consciously acknowledge and realize that atrocities are neither controllable nor preventable. Perot’s “call to arms,” and other similar media and political pronouncements, provide the illusion that such events are controllable and avoidable on the basis that now that the event has occurred, preventative measures can be put into place through bureaucratic means to avoid future destructive attacks. It is this belief that allows us to resume our everyday lives in the aftermath of the September 11th crisis.

Uniqueness And Other Myths

What seems particularly bizarre about Perot’s statement, as with all other American political and media messages regarding September 11th, is the “unique” nature that such events have been perceived, in the United States, to possess; as if no other catastrophic events had ever taken place in the world. This “uniqueness” is made even stronger by the perception that this was an event of such magnitude that nothing in history could be considered to be comparable to it. All apocalyptic events, such as September 11th, the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pol Pot’s Cambodian “Killing Fields,” and the Rwandan, Bosnian and Burundi genocides (to name a few) are “unique” in their own ways. Despite the differing particulars of each event, including how such events are organized, the methods of killing and destruction, the intentions underlying the events, etc., there is no one event which is more or less horrendous than the rest (Bauman 1995). They are catastrophes that cannot be compared, and therefore their results are not comparable. Although the media, political analysts and academics try to measure suffering and horrors through various means, such as analyzing the scale of attacks and the extent of their destruction on cities, industry and people, or counting bodies and using these numbers and other factors to qualitatively compare and rate catastrophic events as more and less destructive and with more and less suffering, they are each qualitatively and quantitatively horrific, their consequences horrific, and their happenings horrific.

Claims of the catastrophic uniqueness of the events of September 11th have been produced through American discourse and reified through the American media. Mostly these claims are expressed through reports which emphasize shock, dismay, disbelief and anger at two related factors: 1) the targeting of American civilians and 2) the targeting of American civilians on continental American soil and the success of the attempt to create mass casualties and destruction. What gives rise to uniqueness claims in this circumstance is that Americans and America itself have been attacked on U.S. (The attack on Pearl Harbor at the beginning of World War II occurred on non-continental American territory, away from American centres of economic and political power). Prior to the World Trade Centre collapse, American casualties have only occurred outside of continental North America. (Remember that the Oklahoma bombings turned out to be perpetrated and carried out by an American. Remember also that the prior attempt on the World Trade Centre failed to create harm and mass destruction). These uniqueness claims substantiate and legitimate the events of September 11th as an unprecedented incident that is not only unconnected to other acts of terror historically, socially and globally, but as having the most detrimental effects.[6] American media reports of the Twin Towers collapse emphasize, in the manner in which they are reported, that catastrophes that occur outside of the United States are expected, assumed, even mundane. This was apparent by tones of shock, dismay, disbelief and anger in newscasters’ voices when reporting on the September 11th attacks. These expressions were in sharp contrast to the blas√© manner in which global catastrophes are reported by these same newscasters every day.

There is an illusion for those of us who live in North America that we are separated, even immune, to the ills of the rest of the world. For the United States to be attacked on its own soil, and sustain immense devastation on its own turf and of its own people, creates, in the American imagination, substantiated uniqueness claims. These claims are imbued with the idea that American lives are worth more than lives lost by non-Americans across the globe. (The value placed on American lives is wholly racialized and classed. Compare the photographs shown of primarily white, middle class, American victims in comfortable, family settings to those of, for example, impoverished, starving and suffering people of colour in Rwanda, other parts of Africa, Cambodia, etc., or emaciated white bodies lying dead on the unpaved, dirt streets in Bosnian villages).

The notion of uniqueness produces and reifies the assumption that catastrophic events and the suffering they cause can be measured and compared. In naming the preeminence of the events of September 11th, the prioritization and distinction of these events necessarily denies the enormity, suffering and destructive consequences of other atrocities. This process, in effect, compares atrocities by emphasizing the magnitude and “uniqueness” of September 11th in relationship to other acts of terror. The difference between the September 11th catastrophe and other acts of terror is produced through discourses that emphasize the “uniqueness” of the events of September 11th. Rather than catastrophic events being seen as a continuum of atrocities, uniqueness claims perpetuate and facilitate the privileging of American suffering as more detrimental, more serious, and more horrific than the suffering of other victims of acts of terror globally and historically. Other acts of terror are rationalized as having lesser importance with lesser consequences.

Nationalist notions of “Us” and “Them” facilitate our sense of disconnection from atrocities that occur outside the concept of “Us.” Acts of terrorism outside the United States that do not involve Americans do not affect “Us.” These events occur outside of our nationalist conception of place, space and history. In other words, events of horror that occur outside of the geographical boundaries of the United States and to non-Americans happen outside of our conceptual proximity of what constitutes our backyard. The notion of our backyard is produced through nationalist discourses to evoke an imagined community of a common, homogenous people who share national and cultural origins inside contained geographical boundaries that serve as the nation, or more specifically, one nation, one people (Gilroy 1987; 1993; Anderson 1983). Events that occur outside the boundaries of what constitutes “Us” (read: an essentialized notion of one people inside contained geographical boundaries of the nation) are conceived as separate from and unrelated to our own personal reality. Hence, we are immune to horrifying images of terror that happen to the Other. The images of other global, historical acts of terror become part of the mundanity of everyday news coverage.

One particular example that comes to mind is the Arab/Israeli conflict. We are inundated with images of Palestinian attacks on Israelis and Israeli attacks on Palestinians on CNN and other news media. Yet, these acts of terror are mundane, part of the everyday news coverage images we see regularly. These images have no direct impact for “Us.” Rather than recognizing the events of September 11th as part of the continuum of terrorist acts around the globe, the political statements and media coverage surrounding the collapse of the Twin Towers constructed the latter as a “unique” event. American media coverage and political discussions emphasized the suffering inflicted on the United States, and Americans generally, as unprecedented elsewhere. Political and media discussions made distinctions horrific acts in the Middle East that happened to “Others,” and the horrendous acts that happened to “Us” as Americans. This discourse reproduced the difference between acts of terrorism experienced in the United States versus acts of terrorism that occur in the Middle East, and more generally, around the world. This difference emphasized the heightened suffering of Americans and the preeminence of the devastation to the United States, against the everyday, “to be expected” (read: mundane) occurrence of acts of violence and terror in the Middle East, or anywhere else.

The Mundane And The Personal

So why is it that despite the fact that we are barraged with catastrophic images of acts of war, terrorism, rape, murder, famine, genocide, and general violence on a regular day-to-day basis in the media, we do not see these pictures as anything but mundane? We regularly view the atrocities that happen to someone else, the Other, on the other side of the world, as part of the normal everyday occurrences around the globe. Why are they not personal to us? In direct contrast, the September 11th collapse of the Twin Towers evoked great emotional outburst and outright fear among us personally. Are events only apocalyptic, earth shattering and horrific if and when they directly effect our own personal reality (or, rather, the illusion of our own personal reality as parlayed through nationalist sentiments and patriotic discourse)?

When we see acts of horror in the news media that are occurring around the globe, we are able to relegate these events to a specific temporality – time, place and space – which we see as Other and separate from ourselves and our lives (Haver 1994). We are not implicated in these events. Thus, we are able to place the event in a specific context that we see as separate and outside our own being. In other words, we see ourselves as immune to the happening of the event. In constituting ourselves as immune, we refuse to see a connection between these events and our own historicity and sociality. We might see this as our refusal to consciously recognize how the occurrence of horrific acts around the world could be part of our own reality, our own existence, with direct effects and implications for us. As a result of such refusal, we feel no emotional attachment to the imagery in the media. Such images appear as part of the mundanity of everyday news broadcasts. These events are reported in the American media in such a way whereby they appear inconsequential to our own existence. When it happens to “Us,” it is unique, a tragedy, a catastrophe, personal. When it happens to the Other, to “Them,” it is mundane, not a part of our reality, something that occurs in a different historical time, place and space.


I want to thank Tim Grumme for inspiring the idea for this article, and for his input, feedback and review of numerous earlier drafts.


[1] I am using Ruth Frankenberg’s (1993) notions of marked and unmarked racialized identity. Frankenberg argues that whiteness has been being socially produced as an “unmarked,” and therefore invisible, racialized construct, in contrast to the social production of Otherness as a “marked,” and therefore visible, racialized category.

[2] The experience of American-Arabs in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks has not been the only circumstance in the history of the United States where the rights and entitlement of non-white racialized American citizens to membership and belonging to the nation were questioned and denied. Japanese-Americans living in the United States during World War II were subject to suspension of their human rights and civil liberties, forcibly placed in internment camps, and their property and personal effects confiscated as a result of their racialized identity.

[3] I am borrowing Paul Gilroy’s (1987; 1993) notion of “the enemy within” from his discussion on the exclusion of Blacks in Britain from membership and belonging in the nation.

[4] The idea that the happening of events is perceived as orderly in the past, but as chaotic in the future was pointed out to me by Tim Grumme in various discussions we had about the content of this article.

[5] My argument that the presence of “The Enemy” in the United States in the aftermath of the September 11th crisis symbolizes social disorder is based on Zygmunt Bauman’s (1995) theory that the victims of all genocides symbolize disorder to the ordering of society. Bauman states that genocides begin with classifying people into groups of “desirable” and “undesirable,” and that the killing of “undesirables” operates as part of a larger framework of bureaucratic social ordering.

[6] Uniqueness claims surfaced with respect to debates surrounding the atrocities of the Holocaust. Specifically, the Holocaust became reified as preeminent and unique through discourses produced to ensure the memory of the Holocaust be kept alive (see Goekjian 1991). The media has capitalized on the use of uniqueness claims to discuss and label the September 11th events.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983.

Bauman, Zygmunt. Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995.

CNN. “Larry King Live: Interview with Ross Perot,” February 20, 2002.

Frankenberg, Ruth. The Social Construction of Whiteness: White Women, Race Matters. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Gilman, Sander L. The Jew’s Body. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Gilroy, Paul. Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures. New York: Serpent’s Tail, 1993.

Gilroy, Paul. “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Goekjian, Gregory F. “Genocide and Historical Desire,” Semiotica. 83(3-4)(1991).

Haver, William. “A World of Corpses: From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to AIDS,” positions 2(1)(1994).

Miles, Robert. Racism After Race Relations. London: Routledge, 1993.

Miles, Robert. Racism. London: Routledge, 1989.

Author: Kelly Amanda Train is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In her struggle to finish grad school alive (and finally finish her dissertation entitled Between Race, Culture and Community: Renegotiating Authentic Identity and the Boundaries Around Jewish Community), she can be found checking her various e-mail accounts, begging research subjects for interviews, and just generally hiding from her thesis committee.

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