Into the Dark Chamber of Terror: The "War On Terror" In Visual Culture

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This dissertation analyzes fiction film representations of the "global war on terror" under special consideration of the ways in which visual representations have mediated the space that novelist J. M. Coetzee so aptly called the "dark chamber" and that I, building on Coetzee, term the dark chamber of terror where, away from bare view, ethical norms, and the regulatory structures of the law, the state and rivaling non-state powers like the al-Qaeda organization exert unchecked control and (lethal) violence over the bodies of those whom they perceive as problem' or enemy' subjects. I approach the visual representations of the dark chamber of terror in fiction film with an argument that they engage in different types of what I term visioning practices that each emerge out of a different relationship between the actual violent event that took place and its initial visual mediation in nonfictional terms. I differentiate between en-visioning practices, where fictional images fill the visual void left by the absence of actual recorded images from the dark chamber; re-visioning practices, where fictional images rewrite actual visual recordings of the dark chamber from an oppositional standpoint that strives to undermine the original narratives and meanings; and dis-visioning practices, an ambivalent form of re-visioning, where fictional images engage the dark chamber and prior visual representations of the dark chamber but negate their full implication. By way of these visioning practices I present a systematic approach to the study of fictional representations in relation to the "global war on terror" and unpack narrative and visual patterns that arise across different film texts. I argue that among recurring visual and narrative patterns are gender representations that associate men with heroically defiant actions in the public arena and women with passive suffering in the domestic space. They also involve storylines that tie heroics and suffering almost unequivocally to the Unites States and its people. Together these and other narrative patterns construct the representational scope of the space that stands at the center of what terror partially encapsulates in the first decade of the twenty-first century.