Organic Shrapnel and the Possibility of Violence

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In his book, 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration, David Simpson
recognizes the political work of violence, suggesting “[w]ar cannot
easily survive the capacity to imagine oneself in the body of the
other.”2 As Simpson infers, the notion of being embedded in the life
of another poses significant challenges to the perpetuation of
violent acts. In this paper, I offer a re-theorization of violence that
takes up the metaphor of “organic shrapnel”, a phenomenon in
which human flesh from a suicide bomber or victim is driven under
the skin of a survivor. What organic shrapnel suggests is not only
that the body is simultaneously permeable and weaponized; the
image also constructs trauma as a relational and possibly ethical
experience. Using the figure of organic shrapnel, I argue for a
broader understanding of the term violence itself – one that
addresses its unfolding in both space and time rather than as an
absolute and single act. Working through several ways of re-theorizing
violence with regard to hospitality, the body, its spatial
and temporal threshold and the significance of the other, the
paper asks: what might it mean to reconsider violence as a site of
potential ethical formation and address rather than the foreclosure
of relational bonds?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-82
Number of pages15
JournalAffinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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