Global Wars, Local Traumas


Comparative Literature / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Muhammad Waqar Azeem (SUNY Binghamton University)

This panel invites papers which critique the United States’ rhetorical and political framing of the 9/11 attacks as a national trauma. Employing Trauma Theory (as explicated by theorists like Dominick LaCapra, Karyn Ball and Stef Craps), the panelists analyze post-9/11 novels (by novelists like Jonathan Safran Foer, Inaam Kachachi, Nadeem Aslam, Shaila Abdullah, Khaled Hosseini and Mohsin Hamid) which narrate traumas of the subjects in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the major targets of Global War on Terror. Broadly, the panel contends that the 9/11 attacks have privileged the US to consider the ensuing trauma as equivalent to the Holocaust, worthy of a national memorial and capable of moralizing preemptive wars on Muslim majority countries on the slightest suspicion of terrorism or even absence thereof. Apparently, the combination of 9/11 trauma and the subsequent state of emergency has justified the wars, yet one can observe in the aftermath of the related contemporary American wars a continuous reproduction—rather than forgetting—of the trauma. The reflection on localized and individualized narratives of the victims of War on Terror sensitizes us to the cultural specificity of the traumas and the unique mechanisms of recovery from them. The panel attempts to resist the hegemonic state-patronized discourse that, on one hand, exceptionalizes 9/11 as a global trauma and, on the other, silences countless local traumas which, if uncovered, expose the imperial ambitions and injustices the United States has been carrying out with an unabashed impunity and unquestioned immunity.

Despite its stated goal to target terrorists, Global War on Terror has frequently traumatized suspect-terrorists/innocents in the war zones in Muslim majority countries. One can observe in the aftermath of the US-led NATO’s wars a continuous reproduction rather than forgetting of the supposedly original trauma of 9/11. Theorizing the post-9/11 literary representations of the traumatized victims of War on Terror, the panel animates local populations’ traumas that remain unrecognized in the dominant academy of the West.