Representing violence: jihad, theory, fiction

O'Rourke, Jacqueline (2011) Representing violence: jihad, theory, fiction. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The discourse surrounding the “war on terror” is dense with possible quilting points in need of analysis. While the theorization of the “war on terror” has been continuing for a decade now, both “suicide bombings” and attacks on Muslim populations have increased dramatically. Thus, while theorizing about the jihad and popularizing the figure of the jihadist has become commonplace, hundreds of thousands of people across the world are still suffering from the effects of real conflict. It can be argued that this condition demonstrates a deep dislocation between First World theory and reality, and that as this dislocation grows the gap of interlocution grows wider. This thesis attempts to highlight this disjuncture and offers suggestions as to how genuine contrapuntal discourse might begin in radical criticism. -- In this thesis I will argue that the temptation to theorize jihad, and especially to appropriate the figure of the jihadist, offers a fertile area from which to launch a discussion about the limits of current theory, particularly regarding the role of Muslim interlocutors in interpretation, the limits of secularism as the founding doctrine off postcolonial theory, and the often opaque debates focused on Islam’s challenge to modernity. The jihadist has been employed by First world theorists as a tool to engage in self reflection on the state of the democratic project in Western countries, while Muslim interlocutors have become central to making visible the specter of the jihadist, playing the role of “good” Muslims in translating the motifs of the “bad” Muslims. Simultaneously, the “bad” Muslims have developed their own forms and discourses to represent themselves, without the mediation of interlocutors. This leads to a vastly heterogeneous discourse which both affirms and rejects dominant ideologies, producing a multi-dimensional “Muslim” response. This thesis discusses what these heterogeneous discourses offer to theory. -- The introduction establishes the methodological approach of the thesis: its contrapuntal and cross disciplinary approach towards a “democratic criticism.” Chapter One argues that while drawing on predominantly Muslim countries as the source material for his theory, Said avoided Islam’s radical critique of humanism, further isolating Islam from the growing field of postcolonial studies. Chapter Two focuses on the various forms of Orientalisms, from the neoconservatives and the left, that have arisen post 9/11 and the role of Muslims, either advertently or inadvertently, in supporting theses Orientalisms as the cultural logic for the militarization of Muslim countries. It studies the works of popular, but diverse, Muslim writers such as Irshad Manji Azar Nafisi, Khalid Hosseini, and Yasmina Khadra. Chapter Three further explores how the concept of jihad migrates of “travels” in theory to fit both the discourses of reform and revolution. This chapter compares the works of liberal reformists such as John Esposito, Oliver Roy and Imam Feisal Abdu Rauf as well as those of well-known radical thinkers, such as Slavoj Žižek and Terry Eagleton, to Islamic reformers, such as Ziaddiun Sardar, Anouar Majid, and Tariq Ramadan. Chapter Four explicitly examines the intentionality of jihad by employing a contrapuntal approach that includes fiction and critical analysis to compare fictional representations of the jihadist to biographical reconstructions of famous jihadists as interpreted by various sociologists and historians. John Updike’s Terrorist, Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, Slimane Benaïssa’s The Last Night of Damned Soul, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Orhan Pamuk’s Snow are discussed. Chapter Five examines the intentionality of the jihadist from his own perspective, through the direct interventions by infamous jihadist, such as Osama bin Laden, Adam Gadhan, Mohammed Siddique Khan, and Shehzad Tanweer, raising questions about the dialogic relationship between the jihadist, his audience, and the media. Arguing that the jihadist maintains both a performative and political stance by establishing a relationship between the jihadist and a community of responsible victims, these articulations are compared to those of noted interpreters such as Henry Giroux and Faisal Devji. The concluding chapter theorizes what jihad can contribute to contemporary theory, particularly to postcolonial studies, and positions the concept of jihad itself within the postcolonial tradition. The thesis concludes that by reclaiming the roots of contemporary jihad theory as a part of a postcolonial tradition, jihad can make a valuable contribution to the future of theory, which includes Islamic discourse in a serious debate on postcolonialism, particularly in the context of the ongoing 2010-2011 Arab revolutions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 11180
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 276-299).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2011
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Jihad; Jihad in literature; Islam and philosophy.

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