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Gronnvoll, Marita and Kristen McCauliff

Fall 2013, 43:4, pages 335-354

Bodies that Shatter: A Rhetoric of Exteriors, the Abject, and Female Suicide Bombers in the “War on Terrorism”

Abstract:  Pairing literature on constitutive rhetoric with Julia Kristeva’s work on the abject as a theoretical framework, we examine the rhetoric of U.S media that report with alarm and dismay on the activities of female suicide bombers in the so-called war on terrorism. By examining the media-described actions of female suicide bombers as abject, and their acts as a type of “situated utterance,” we are able to trace the ways in which both are articulated by U.S. mass media with cultural tropes that constitute a particular identity or subjectivity of the American audience in which these discourses circulate. Audiences are invited to articulate the violence of these women with already existing cultural understandings of violent women and their bodies. Through these mediated discourses, the U.S. audience is invited to understand these actions as the insane acts of uncontained sociopaths, not as meaningful, although acutely violent, situated utterances.


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