The terror of the place: Anxieties of place and the cultural narrative of terrorism

Ethics, Place and Environment 11 (2):191 – 203 (2008)
Abstract
Place is sometimes understood as reinforcing personal and cultural identity in the face of dissipating versions of modernism or postmodernism. However, that identity can also come with a variety of cultural neuroses and manias that are inscribed on place. I consider the ways in which terrorism has become a feature of place, and how we can expect to see the terror of the place in the future. First, we can expect a relative diminishment in 'place-making imagination', the ability to see places as rich, ambiguous, and multi-purposed. Second, we can expect the terror of the place to exhibit itself as an inability to come to terms with the other. Third, we can expect the continuation and development of a triumphalist narrative of place, including a sense of entitlement. Fourth, we can anticipate the death or the fear of the agora, the true 'agoraphobia', as the public space of discourse is closed down, and the private space of patriarchally enforced agreement gains ascendancy. Fifth, we can expect people to regard specific places as having fixed and permanent meanings, and to try to constrain those meanings in such a way as to guarantee that permanence. Sixth, we can expect topophobia, not only the fear of place but also stage fright, as the expression of self on the world stage becomes more and more limited and narrowly focussed. And seventh, we can expect a re-assertion of memory of place, perhaps with a shifted baseline, as the places of terror become exhausted. We can furthermore expect all of these phobias and manias to be rationalized as virtue in a society that cannot deal with the terror of the place.
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