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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