Forget September 11

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September 11 has been etched on our memories. This article explores the uses and problems of memory in relation to responses to September 11, focusing largely on material from the USA and the Federal Republic of Germany as illustration, and argues that we might be better off forgetting September 11. The exhortation to remember is used to justify responding militarily abroad and, significantly, curtailing civil liberties at home. Criticism of these policies is difficult because of the moral cause established by the dead. However, the problematic of memory destabilises the possibility of straightforward knowledge and this is important for analysing the construction of a particular 'we' through distinguishing between 'us' and 'them' and the construction of September 11 as something exceptional. These constructions work together not only to make possible responses which are mere technical fixes, but also to undermine what may be said to constitute the identity of the West, other than as an entity under attack. This precludes the contemplation of alternative responses to the events which would take into account our responsibility towards others and the political power of renouncing a memory. It is in addressing the problematic of memory and, as a result, in considering such alternatives that we may find the affirmation of our identity that we currently seem unable to find. What is at stake are fundamental questions of politics - about who we are, about how to address our inevitable vulnerability and our responsibility towards others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-528
Number of pages15
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


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