Terror, Trauma, and the Thing at Ground Zero

Evental Aesthetics 1 (3):23-32 (2012)

Ten years after the assault on the World Trade Center, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was opened to the public. Built amidst the busy financial corridors of Lower Manhattan, the memorial was designed to provide a tranquil space for honoring those who perished in the terror attacks. Yet reading the 9/11 Memorial in terms of public remembrance fails to account for either the ontopolitical impact of the attacks as an event that continues to unfold or the contingent relationship of the monument to modes of narratizing 9/11 trauma. To counter the recuperation of the 9/11 Memorial within nationalist security discourses, this essay employs an object-oriented framework to evaluate how 9/11 texts, political symbols, and memorial components operate as things-in-themselves, retaining individual agency apart from human motivations. Theorizing the signifer of “9/11” as a fiction productive of homogenized affect, I argue that the 9/11-signifier stabilizes the equilibrium of the state by suppressing the agency of objects that propose ways of relating to 9/11 that challenge the “hyperrelational” logic of United States security constructs, whereby all objects are said to be interconnected through a conflation of the marketplace, Constitution, and God. In preserving the material displacement of objects from familiar spatiotemporal locations, however, I contend that the 9/11 Memorial deterritorializes becoming from human subjectivity to withdrawn objectal being, in turn creating space for an uncanny affirmation of difference
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