The introduction to Johannes Voelz's brilliant and intriguing new study, The Poetics of Insecurity, closes with a scene from the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Treating the episode as typical of narratives of security generally, Voelz describes the “staging of a ritual that effected the imaginary conversion of vulnerability into heroic agency” in TV coverage that celebrated “the capture of Dzhokar Tsarnaev as if a national sports team had won a major championship” (32). He mentions “cell phone videos [that] capture the crowd chanting ‘USA! USA!’” and “citizens” participating “in the search for suspects by posting suggestions, guesses, and suspicions—witch-hunt style—on social media platforms such as Reddit and Twitter” (33). To Voelz, these actions indicate “a struggle for stasis by way of active retribution,” a struggle in which “people” convert “the uncertainty of threat into their own empowerment” (33). In his study, Voelz seeks to “detect, isolate, and reject”...
American Insecurities, as Seen from Abroad
CAREN IRR is professor of English at Brandeis University. She writes about theory, media studies, and contemporary fiction in English. Her most recent book is titled Toward the Geopolitical Novel: US Fiction in the Twenty-First Century (2013). She is currently researching environmental narratives.
Caren Irr; American Insecurities, as Seen from Abroad. Novel 1 November 2019; 52 (3): 466–470. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-7738713
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