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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Professor Christa Davis Acampora: Agonistic Politics - Reflections on a ‘War on Terror’

11th November 2008, 17:30 to 18:30, Holgate Room, Grey College (please note change of venue)

IAS/Grey College Public Lecture

This lecture will explore the boundaries between friends and enemies, the logic of opposition that drives and sustains that distinction, and the processes of dehumanisation that occur in the rhetorical construction of the enemy, particularly in the context of current definitions of terrorism and the identification of distinct entities in international political discourse.

Professor Acampora's specific inquiry is organised around the question of whether policies and actions driving U.S. international relations entail a certain logic of engagement and a political ontology that cast friends and enemies and their relations in a new light. It has the appearance of the structure of opposition of "good" and "evil" that has been dominant at least since the advent of Christianity and perhaps longer.

Professor Acampora, however, will argue that this is rhetorically superficial. Utilizing a methodology that examines a variety of "texts" - including counter-terrorism training materials utilised by 'coalition forces', official U.S. military documents concerning rules of engagement, public statements by U.S. and British military officers, domestic 'public awareness' campaigns of the New York City police department, and the suicide note and published academic philosophical writings of a U.S. Army colonel in Iraq - Professor Acampora will consider how this apparently tremendous conflict is framed in such a way as to undermine any possibility of real, legitimate engagement and opposition. Thus, it has the appearance of a conflict that might have possible decisive outcomes, when in fact it is structured so as to have no possible terminus.

Professor Christa Davis Acampora holds appointments at Hunter College and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her areas of specialisation include modern European philosophy and aesthetics. Professor Acampora is currently a Fellow at the Durham Institute of Advanced Study (October-December 2008) and participating in the Institute's 'Being Human' theme.


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