Hiroshima and the responsibility of intellectuals: Crisis, catastrophe, and the neoliberal disimagination machine

Thesis Eleven 129 (1):103-118 (2015)
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Abstract

This article addresses the relative silence of American intellectuals in the face of what can be termed the greatest act of terrorism ever committed by a nation-state, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I analyze this indifference by American intellectuals as partly due to their taming by a cultural apparatus that functions largely as a disimagination machine in conjunction with the neoliberal forces of commodification, privatization, and militarism. I argue that terror and violence are now addressed within a public pedagogy driven by a spectacle of violence that defines itself as entertainment but is actually a form of public pedagogy that thrives on an excess of representation and an attempt to produce a collective surrender to political cynicism and apocalyptic despair. In this instance, despair and cynicism, if not a retreat from any sense of moral responsibility, are deeply embedded in a mode of politics in which education is central to a flight from social responsibility and an embrace of modes of depoliticization. The article concludes by calling upon educators, intellectuals, artists and others to create the institutions, public spheres, and other sites necessary to develop a critical formative culture capable of reclaiming public memory while simultaneously producing critically engaged intellectuals and a vibrant democratic polity.

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