Forget September 11

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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 United States and the Federal Republic of Germany as illustration, and argues that we might be better of 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 due to 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 to be 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
Title of host publicationCritical International Relations
Subtitle of host publicationEmpirical interventions II: movement, violence, accountability
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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