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Durham University

Department of Geography

All Future Events

Human Geography Workshops: Responding to Charlie Hebdo

11th February 2015, 12:15 to 14:00, W007, Main Geography Building, Various Speakers

The Politics-State-Space Research Cluster is pleased to present this discussion of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, chaired by convenor Dr Angharad Closs Stephens.

Talks will begin at 12:30 but lunch and refreshments will be available from 12:15.

Speakers (all Durham University, Department of Geography unless noted otherwise):

Introduction: Responding to Charlie Hebdo [audio]
Angharad Closs Stephens

Group 1 [audio]
Noam Leshem - Alternative political theologies

David Jones (Sandy) Marshall - Scales of response

Martin Coward (Politics, Newcastle University and Fellow at the IAS) - On violence

Rebecca Ferreboeuf (Modern Languages & Cultures, Durham University) - Revolutionary terror

Group 2 [audio]
Andrew Baldwin - Tolerance and resentment

Sam Slatcher - Faith and coexistence

Andrew Telford - Geographies of Islamaphobia

Group 3 [audio]

Angharad Closs Stephens - The politics of response

Madhumita Dutta - The politics of free speech

Ben Anderson - The life of events


As academics, we generally take time in forming responses to events unfolding in the world around us. In the wake of the shooting of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris on 7th January 2015, we might say that hesitating in the face of what are still as yet an unclear set of events is important. Writing in response to the plane crashes in North America on 11th September 2011, Jenny Edkins reminds us of the 'immediate lack of certainty and lack of clear narratives as to what exactly had happened and to whom' (Edkins, 2003: 19). With each event that has followed, and that has assumed the name of a 'terrorist event', including most recently the bombings at the Boston marathon on 15th April 2013, the murder of Lee Rigby a British army soldier near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, London on 22nd May 2013, and the shootings at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi Kenya on 21st September 2013, the uncertainty has been overshadowed by narratives about civilization and barbarism, majorities and minorities, freedom and security. Such events have also raised a familiar set of debates about 'drawing the lines' between one of these binary categories and the other.

In tying these different events together into a sequence, we contribute to the sense that what happened at each of these sites is self-evident and risk obscuring the broader histories and geographies that are particular to each event. We also risk brushing over the fact of the numbers that died (at least 67 at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi), raising questions about how some deaths come to count more than others - or indeed, come to count at all (Butler, 2006; Elden, 2010; Responding to the ten year anniversary of the events of 11th September 2001, geographer Neil Smith invites us to consider 'whose victimhood gets to count, and at what scale does it count' (2011). Author Teju Cole in his blog post responding to the Paris attacks also raises questions about what he calls 'the consensus about mournable bodies [which] often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world' (The New Yorker: Unmournable Bodies).

The deaths at the Charlie Hebdo offices on the 7th of January 2015 in Paris included: 8 journalists including the magazine's editor, 2 police officers, 1 caretaker and 1 visitor to the magazine's weekly editorial meeting. Of those 12 killed, one was a woman. Both suspects of the attacks were killed by police on the 9th of January. On the 8th of January, a policewoman was killed on duty in Montrogue, in a reportedly connected incident. On the 9th January, 4 more people were killed and several taken hostage at a Hyper Cacher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, by what is reported to be the same man and woman that killed the police officer on the 8th of January (Source: BBC News).

By now, several different politicians, commentators, theorists, and journalists have offered various responses to the Charlie Hebdo shootings: some of these responses have been especially thoughtful and provocative; all of them raise questions about the politics of response and remind us that responses to violence carry their own risks (Closs Stephens and Vaughan-Williams, 2009). This event, organised by the Politics-State-Space cluster, will bring together several different speakers including staff and postgraduates to give five minute responses to the events at Charlie Hebdo and their immediate aftermath.

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