⎯ Friday 9th May 11.00 am. Panel I & II
Panel I: Episodes of Pervasive Distrust: American Institutions and the Effects of Paranoia and Anxiety
Panel Chair: Sebastian Jobs
Auréliane Narvaez: Fostering, Managing and Relieving Doubts: Manipulating Mistrust and the Threat of Religious Scepticism in Antebellum America 1790-1830
In the wake of the American Revolution, the rise of rational critical inquiry about the validity of biblical revelation and reli- gious scepticism gradually became a multifaceted issue, threatening the Christian hegemony and questioning the former structures of colonial society. Now, in the 1790s, the self-confidence of the revolutionary era along with the staunch rejection of colonial standards of authority proved increasingly wavering, giving way to manifest forms of doubts, from suspicion towards policies enacted by the new government to bitterness against creditors, speculators or fears of bankruptcy and counterfeit currency. This latent uncertainty about the future along with the refashioning of the ideological standards of colonial America contributed to the rise of a pervasive sense of self-doubt and mistrust, which insidiously began to permeate the early American society. In this atmosphere of suspicious doubt and insecurity, religious institutions mobilized in order to manage mistrust and halt the spread of religious scepticism accused of being responsible for all the ills of society. To what extent did religious institutions endeavour to thrive on the feeling of mistrust pervading society? What were the reasons for religious groups to foster this anxiety? My proposal shall investigate the challenges posed by religious scepticism and the processes by which scepticism and critical inquiry became gradually targeted by religious leaders as a matter of national security and as the primary threat to the stability of the young Republic. My contention is that cultural mistrust and the threat of religious scepticism were intentionally nursed by such religious groups as Presbyterians or Congregationalists in order to manage doubt, stimulate the vitality of religious commitment, and secure the prominent role of evangelical religion in the growth of partisan political debate.
By the mid-1970s paranoia had become the buzzword of the Nixon years. Political analysts and newspaper columnists predicted that the US would enter a golden age of paranoia. The Watergate scandal and Nixon’s policy of denial, projection, and cover-up, they ar- gued, had caused the public to completely lose faith in the government and its agencies. Blaming the public’s lapse into collective paranoia on the individual paranoia of Nixon and his aides, the media portrayed the Nixon administration as ‘a bunch of paranoids spying on each other’ who engaged in conspiracies because they believed they were victims of a conspiracy themselves. Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator, but in the eyes of many he also stood convicted as a paranoid conspiracy theorist. In this paper I will ana- lyze various ‘texts’ of the 1970s—from newspaper articles to texts by John Ehrlichmann and Howard Hunt and Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976)—to investigate how paranoia was caused, represented, and problematized during the Watergate scandal. By creating conspirators and conspiracy theorists, paranoids and non-paranoids, these texts constructed individual and collective identi- ties and wove the Watergate events into a coherent narrative in what some perceived to be a disorienting period in American history. The question at the core of this paper is, then, whether Watergate indeed ushered in a golden era of paranoia or merely showed that paranoia was, as one article stated, ‘an idée fixe whose time had come.’
It is a commonplace that political authority, especially in democracies, depends upon the trust people are willing to invest in their government. That is why governments are typically not merely busy enacting their policies, but are also constantly engaged in a very complex politics of ‘affect modulation,’ seeking to establish trust and confidence among the national population as well as among international allies. In this regard, whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaking of the NSA spy programs has certainly been highly damag- ing to the American government. For how could one still put trust in a government whose security apparatus gathers millions of e- mails, phone calls and other communication data on a daily basis, thus effectively treating anyone—including the leaders of allied foreign countries—as potential enemies in need to be constantly observed and surveilled? So far, however, the massive breach of trust coming to light in the course of the Snowden affair has only had very limited effects on political authority. Although there is much criticism directed against the American government—coming from within and without the US—protests have been rather isolated, and nowhere near as intense as during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. One reason for this might be that, having grown up in the so-called ‘Information Age,’ many people today seem to be quite used to the idea that no matter what you do and where you do it, somebody might be watching you. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s notion of the ‘panopticon,’ Gilles Deleuze’s conception of ‘control societies,’ and Michael Fried’s distinction between ‘absorption’ and ‘theatricality,’ the aim of this paper is to investigate the cultural conditions and consequences of this situation, linking the problem of surveillance to questions regarding current forms and practices of self-representation. Ultimately, the analysis thus touches upon recent discussions about the individual’s ‘right to privacy,’ arguing that the already problematic public/private distinction is further put into question by the daily practices of self-representation per- formed by millions of internet users worldwide.
Panel II: Tricksters and Con Men: Untrustworthy Figures in American Cultural Expression
Panel Chair: Kathleen Loock
Dennis Mischke: Confidence Games and Global Communities: Herman Melville and Imperial Cosmopolitanism
In his famous essay ‘Bartleby, or the Formula’ Gilles Deleuze reads Herman Melville’s novella Bartleby the Scrivener as a story about the ultimate cosmopolitan community. The pale figure in Melville’s story, he holds, is a ‘messiah’ for a universal community of ‘broth- ers and sisters’ built on ‘truth and trust’. According to Deleuze, Bartleby imagines a world community without hegemony and imperial- ism, a ‘fatherless society’, in which ‘alliance replaces filiation’. Interestingly however, towards the end of his text on Bartleby, Deleuze proceeds to Melville’s novel The Confidence Man and asks whether this ‘great Cosmopolitan’ American community is indeed a new hope or merely a ‘new father’ in disguise. In my paper, I will investigate Melville’s literary take on this problem focusing particularly on the connection between imperial cosmopolitanism (Gramsci), confidence and trust. I will argue that Melville repeatedly connects his literary renditions of cosmopolitanism with the question of interpersonal and intercultural trust, especially vis-à-vis the problem of alterity. In Bartleby and The Confidence Man, I argue, the ultimate confidence trickster is not the ‘stranger at the door’ but instead the shape-shifting and world-traveling cosmopolitan. Drawing on the concept of the ‘inoperative community’ (Nancy) as well as Luh- mann’s theory of trust, I will argue that a cosmopolitan world society is—and can only be—a community of those, who are without community. In conclusion, my paper proposes to project Melville’s rendition of cosmopolitanism to our current age of repeated crises and declining trust.
Flannery O’Connor has been considered an author with a decidedly Catholic perspective, but in her fiction, the notion of faith tends to be deeply ambiguous. The short story Revelation (1964) is indeed one of the very few stories that feature a straightforward and posi- tive depiction of the recognition of God. Because of the story’s uncharacteristic clarity in this respect, it is especially suitable to ad- dress formal characteristics that generally run through O’Connor’s work. This specifically concerns O’Connor’s formal approach to systematically invite contradictory interpretations of the story’s meaning. Revelation may be read as a story about the chance encoun- ter of two high-strung local women and their mutual irritation with each other; it may also be read as the encounter of two prophets to whom a fundamental truth about life is revealed. The formal construction of the story oscillates between these two readings and grants both of them plausibility. In this talk, I will analyze the ways in which these contradictory implications are constructed in tan- dem with each other, and focus on the characterization of the protagonists as fundamentally indeterminate figures as well as the coded nature of their central interaction.
American culture has frequently been said to enjoy a special relationship with impostors and con men, which have shadowed the nation’s rise to a modern democracy and been an economic force since the 19th century. Some scholars go so far as to argue that the entrepreneurial spirit which accelerated the United States’ rise to global power is, at its heart, a virtue shared with confidence trickery: the ability to gain a gullible audience’s trust by feeding them a good narrative, only to exploit this trust. Nowhere is this mechanism more evident than in the small genre of the con man film which has fully emerged in the past decade, as some of the most renowned American directors (e.g. Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell, Steven Spielberg) and nearly all of Hollywood’s major character actors (e.g. Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage) have contributed to the illustrious gallery of con men on screen. Films like The Informant! or Catch Me If You Can play their very own con games with the viewers, inviting them to trust in the surface structure of a generic story, but ultimately pulling the rug from under their feet. On screen, the con man has infiltrated a number of renowned, well- known film genres to have his way with the audience, oscillating between his need to remain anonymous on the one hand and to seek the spotlight on the other. In my talk, I will address the ambiguous nature of the con man as a somewhat subversive yet ultimately restorative, adaptable figure, and the role which trust plays in the audience’s relationship with the notion of genre. The main analysis will be dedicated to one of the most successful con man capers in recent years, Ben Affleck’s Academy Award-winning thriller, Argo (2012), a film which not only cons its viewers on a number of levels, but also camouflages itself as a critical genre film in the vein of 1970s ‘New Hollywood’ cinema, only to reconcile the audience with institutions that have come under scrutiny in the light of recent media headlines and an alleged crisis of faith in America, most notably the C.I.A.
⎯ Friday 9th May 3.00 pm. Panel III & IV
Panel III: ‘The Most Trusted Name in News?’: Television from Political Commentary to Parody
Panel Chair: Alexander Starre
Comedian Stephen Colbert’s parody, The Colbert Report (2005-present), operates in a parafictional realm, an intersection between the real and the imaginary. The notion of parafiction, employed by art historian Carrie Lambert-Beatty to discuss works that exploit blurred boundaries of fact and fiction, is similar to Colbert’s own, fundamental, trope of ‘truthiness.’ On his show, Colbert plays a character named Stephen Colbert and espouses beliefs that mimic sensationalist, ‘straight’ political talk shows—but with an over- insistence, a wink and a nod, that reveals his duplicity. Lampooning contemporary political developments, Colbert has employed par- afiction/truthiness as a means of cultural critique, perhaps most notably in the creation of his Super PAC, Americans for a Better To- morrow, Tomorrow. Following the controversial Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee and the prolif- eration of Political Action Campaigns (PACs) and Super PACs during the 2012 presidential campaign, Colbert’s legally established and conceivably legitimate Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow exposed the clandestine workings of these funding mechanisms through parodic hyperbole. Indeed, Colbert received a Peabody Award for his ‘innovative means of teaching American viewers about the landmark court decision.’ This paper would track Colbert’s development of the Super PAC, examining his strategies through par- afiction theory. Addressing these levels of truth and ‘truthiness,’ I will discuss how Colbert and The Colbert Report won the public’s trust through obvious deception and how this relationship with his viewers worked to reveal this controversial structure within the American political system.
In his first State of the Union Address in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared ‘war on poverty’; a war that could not be won in Washington: ‘It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.’ On the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s combative announcement, many Americans are still walking a nationwide battlefield, fighting harder than ever. As trust in governmental as well as financial institutions decreases and the desirable ascent ‘from rags to riches’ becomes less likely in light of recent economic recessions, peniaphobia thrives. Studies such as the 2013 Women, Money & Power Study by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America suggest that many US citizens dread economic downward movement and the concomitant social decline these days. This paper argues that the fear of becoming poor has come to supersede the trust in fundamental security of monetary wealth. To open up the argument this paper will explore several popular television programs as powerful socio-cultural junctions. It will consider how televisual narratives such as FOX’s Arrested Development and Showtime’s Shameless bring into question notions of wealth culture and histories of money while simultaneously perpetuating stereotypical- imagery of poverty and contributing to peniaphobia. By way of drawing on Robert Putnam’s concept of social capital and on Eric Uslaner’s moral foundations of trust, the nexus between televisual representations of affluence, austerity and issues of trust will be further illustrated.
News media function as sources of information that can form common perceptions and a shared platform for dialogue. Since the mid- 20th century, the American public has come to increasingly distrust ‘the media’—a development that can be seen as a fundamental problem for a functioning democratic society. How can this development be explained and possibly counteracted? Two sets of explan- atory models will be presented and explained, the first of which sees trust intricately linked to the quality of news content. The second set of explanations shifts our focus to the recipients of information and sees declining levels of trust as a result of an increasingly fragmented, narrativized, and politicized news environment. In it, greater levels of competition, more subjective reporting techniques, as well as political ideology have come to play a decisive part in establishing which sources of news individual members of the public trust and what information they might dismiss. By introducing the example of conservative media and coverage of climate change, I will show how news media can form ‘trust-constituencies’ and how this aspect may come to determine the type of information parts of the public are exposed to as well as the levels of political knowledge they acquire. Depending on which set of explanatory models we focus on, different recommendations for restoring trust in the news media can be made. I argue that focus should shift towards the various constituencies and their news consumption habits. From this perspective, the public’s trust in the news media can be seen as a historically contingent phenomenon, whereas trust in specific types of news media need not necessarily be understood as a desir- able outcome for democracy.
Panel IV: American Borders: The Ethnic Other’s Relation to Security and Trust
Panel Chair: Martin Lüthe
‘Exclusion’, ‘Otherness creation’, ‘Othering’: all refer to the process of creating a paradigm in which members of the nation seperate themselves from any that do not fit within the topology of the nation, the ‘Others’. This ‘Othering’ is argued to be a necessary step in the creation of an ‘imagined political community’ (Anderson) that people trust and can identify with, and hence is a prerequisite for nation-building. What, however, happens if subjects normally understood as ‘Others’ suddenly become part of the nation? My paper will scrutinize this fundamental area of conflict by taking California’s TRUST Act of 2013 as an exemplary context. Under this Act, im- migrants who reside in the US illegally would have to be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to be eligible for a 48-hour hold and transfer to US immigration authorities for possible deportation. Further, accompanying bills allowed illegal immigrants to receive California driver‘s licenses and to get licensed as lawyers. Undocumented immigrants, traditionally and discursively inscribed as ‘Oth- ers’, are thus admitted beneficiaries that normally only are granted to US citizens. Giving examples from both public media discourse and the legal text itself, I will examine the contradiction of this phenomenon and trace how ‘including Others’ further into contempo- rary US society can ultimately lead to a stabilization or a destabilization of trust in the nation.
The term ‘borderlands’ pertains to any area located on a border, conventionally understood as political; that is the line separating the two adjacent territories that belong to different countries. Nonetheless, to many, borderlands in the North American context would immediately connote the region on the Mexican-American border and evoke associations with the ruthless activity of transnational organized crime. Therefore, inasmuch as such representations of the region raise controversy among Americans, the Southern part of the United States is widely regarded as dangerous due to its proximity to Mexico. The latter tends to be perceived as host to organized crime, drug cartels and human trafficking, and therefore, as posing threat to American democracy. Thus, border security seems to be the most efficient solution to protect the United States from the violence originating in the South. The aim of this paper is to examine the conceptualizations of the Mexican-American borders as manifested in the novel by Chicana writers: Ana Castillo’s The Guardians and in Desert Blood. The Juarez Murders by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, which challenge the aforementioned view and offer a different perspective. Both authors in their works expose the complexities of the predicament, in which, particularly Latino/as are put on both sides, irrespective of their citizenship as well as challenging the belief that the wave of violence seeps solely in one direction: towards the North. The borderland, as problematized by the two writers, emerges as Gloria Anzaldua defines it: a multifaceted, not solely geographic space, where various influences such as ethnicity, culture, religion, gender etc. intersect. I find Gaspar de Alba’s as well as Castillo’s works significantly interesting since they do not simply reverse the rhetoric pointing to the United States as the source of bloodshed. On the contrary, they expose the entanglement of various factors contributing to border violence in addition to provoking reflection upon the extent of emphasis on border security and its efficacy as well as consideration of other possible strategies to deal with the intricate problem.
This research explores the linkages between race, security, and migration. The central concern of the paper is to illuminate the im- portance of race and racialized discourses within state framings of the ‘Security-Migration Nexus‘. Situated within the burgeoning field of Critical Security Studies, this research uses the work of critical race theorist Stuart Hall to consider state security discourses on migration as ‘racialized regimes of representation.‘ Specifically, the research provides a Critical Discourse Analysis of the Canadian State‘s response to Hungarian Roma refugee claims between the years 2008 and 2011. The paper focuses on a Security and Intelli- gence Report on the issue authored by the Canadian Border Services Agency in 2011. In examining the discursive representations of Hungarian Roma refugee claimants within this report, the paper explores the ways in which migration becomes linked to matters of security via the employment of racialized discourses. This research explores how through discursive representations of Hungarian Roma refugee claimants as ‘criminals‘, ‘frauds‘, and ‘thieves‘, the Canadian State has framed Hungarian Roma as a security concern due to their racialized identity as ‘Gypsies‘. In the final analysis the research examines how such a racializing narrative operates to advocate and justify neoliberal policy prescriptions in response to Roma migrants and refugees generally, thus analyzing the interplay between security, migration, race and neoliberalism.
⎯ Friday 9th May 5.00 pm
Keynote I. Martin Hartmann: The Decline of Trust: Myth or Fact?
There seems to be agreement that trust is receding in many areas of social and political life. Particularly the debate on the decline of social capital in the United States has always been linked to claims concerning the destruction of local and translocal trust. It needs to be investigated, though, on what—rather impoverished—conception of trust this pessimistic diagnosis relies. The presentation will suggest a more nuanced conception of trust that will yield a different set of questions and different tools for diagnosis. The real dan- ger to trust, it will be shown, is not mistrust but social or political indifference.
⎯ Saturday 10th May 9.30 am
Keynote II. Susan Castillo: Trust, Civility, and the Shadow of Jamestown
This lecture examines four episodes of trust and betrayal in the career of English explorer John Smith, who played a crucial role in the survival of Jamestown, England’s first permanent colony in North America. After a brief discussion of the historical context, it will examine concepts of trust and distrust in relation to the following events: 1) John Smith’s alleged salvation from certain death by Pocahontas; 2) The divinatory rites carried out by the indigenous people of Virginia to determine whether Smith and his English compatriots could be trusted; 3) The kidnapping of Pocahontas by the English; and finally, 4) the meeting between Pocahontas and John Smith in England.
⎯ Saturday 10th May 11.30 am. Panel V & VI
Panel V: Faltering Communities: Sociological Perspectives on Trust and Fear in American Society
Panel Chair: Markus Kienscherf
Emanuela Burini: Urban Fear and Social Insecurity: The Phenomenon of Gated Communities in North America
In the past fifteen years gated residential developments, known as gated communities have altered the American urban landscape as well as American suburban society and its lifestyle. As gated communities are as yet almost unknown in Europe, the intention of this paper is to focus on a few basic aspects and issues such as the physical and functional characteristics of these gated residential devel- opments, where they are to be found, how widespread this new type of settlement is, who lives there, and why. The most obvious reason for moving to a gated community is the fear of increasing crime and the desire of many citizens to feel safe (Marcuse, 1997). In this paper I explore how the discourse of fear of violence and crime and the search for a secure community by those who live in gated communities in the United States legitimates self-exclusion and residential segregation. I will also put in evidence how the rise of criminal phenomenon, the loss of trust in the ‘Other’, the lack of political and social institutions capable of giving their citizens efficient social policies, have supported the diffusion of gated communities. Starting from the sociological theories of Chicago School (Harvey W. Zorbaugh, The Gold Coast and the Slum,1929), in this paper I will show how the modern city, from Boston to Los Angeles (E. J. Blakely, M. Gail Snyder, Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States,) if not correctly managed, is able to cut off the individual rather than create relationships and social cohesion. In conclusion I will refer to CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environ- mental Design), to explain the relationship between security and urban space (Jacobs J., 2009, Oscar Newman, 1972).
Changes in immigration policy in 1965 have led to unprecedented levels of religious diversity in the United States. Over the last thirty years, much scholarship has focused on the Protestant hegemony‘s vehement rejection of secularism and xenophobic tendencies regarding religious ‘Others’. But a lacuna exists regarding religious and secular attempts to embrace the new religious diversity, strengthening solidarity and trust across lines of religious difference that can be employed to create political coalitions and civic coop- eration. Drawing on an examination of over fifty American ‘interfaith organizations’, my paper theorizes such trust-building interfaith activity according to a conceptual tool I have developed—the interfaith anchor. Two basic qualities are present in all interfaith an- chors. First, an interfaith anchor speaks to a fundamental human concern. In this way it is not necessary to ‘invent’ a relationship between a religious tradition or philosophical worldview and the interfaith anchor. Instead, interfaith organizations facilitate a redis- covering or foregrounding of the relationship between various traditions and the interfaith anchor. Second, interfaith anchors connect the individual to a larger system. In doing so, they also provide ready-made analogies for interfaith activists regarding the value of religious diversity and the common good. The recognition of common values expressed through deeply different traditions translates into trust and working with rather than against religious ‘Others’. My study will examine ‘the environment’ and ‘community service’ as two examples of interfaith anchors and explore their potential in the struggle to achieve a culture of religious pluralism.
Trust—a fundamental factor in the successful development of social contacts—is of vital importance both in everyday life and in social theory. The day-to-day work of a cab driver is characterized by a number of very specific life-threatening risks e.g. violent attacks by passengers. As a result, the issue of trust is particularly pertinent. Research by Henslin (1967) studied cab drivers in St. Louis (Mis- souri), focusing on the most consistent reasons cited for passengers being considered trustworthy. Gambetta/Hamill (2005) explored the question of how cab drivers in New York establish the trustworthiness of passengers. Their theoretical approach followed Signal- ling Theory, a sub-set of Game Theory, which, in turn, is part of Rational Choice Theory. Both studies showed the need for further scientific research examining this perspective, since the theoretical approaches employed could not be confirmed in full. Woischwill’s empirical research project on cab drivers used a mix of theories and methods (triangulation). The results showed that by means of an intensive, reciprocal process of interaction (mainly verbal) with passengers, cab drivers are able to reach particularly reliable evalua- tions of trustworthiness. This process also provides the drivers with an opportunity to exert a positive influence on the establishment of trust.
Panel VI: Visibility, Surveillance, and Control: Mediation and the Power of the Image in American Culture
Panel Chair: Simon Schleusener
When the film serial The Exploits of Elaine appeared in American cinemas in 1915, trade paper coverage highlighted its displays of spectacular technology—centrally, the fictional apparatuses and contraptions of surveillance pivotal to the serial’s narrative—as accu- rate depictions of ‘remarkable mechanisms [that] are not the product of the studio workshop, but the genuine article’. Indeed, the serial’s advertisements repeatedly urged the film audiences to trust in the depiction of mechanical marvels, which constituted the serial’s central attraction. By doing so, the serial asked its audiences to trust a screen image that was created through the camera—an agent that since the turn-of-the-century ‘peeping Tom’ shorts was identified as an intruder into private spaces. In the specific constel- lation of the early crime serial, I claim, the camera thus emerges as a site of the negotiation of trust and surveillance. As I will show, The Exploits of Elaine unfolds a narrative about trust through surveillance by showcasing how surveillance technologies structure power relations, as the plot’s central conflict between good and evil is carried out as a fight over the management of identification and obscurity. This management is foregrounded especially in medially self-reflexive scenes that weave a network of visualities by depict- ing optical devices such as a periscope, binoculars, and a threatening light beam. As a result, the serial negotiates how ‘the visual technologies associated with cinema are intimately connected with surveillance practice and the production of knowledge through visibility’.
Daniela Agostinho: Aesthetics of Distrust: Transparency, Opacity and War in Brian de Palma’s Redacted (2007)
The recent NSA scandal and its global outreach have given rise to a widespread debate on surveillance and transparency. The demand for transparency, voiced by increasing social movements, is underwritten by a paradoxical notion of visibility. While transparency is reclaimed as a measure of civic scrutiny and political accountability, it also informs the logics underlying the global surveillance ma- chinery and its notion that everything has to be visible and monitored in order to guarantee safety. This struggle over visibility is hardly new and can be discerned in the visualisation of warfare over the last four decades. Indeed, the recent visual history of war seems to mirror a progressive struggle over visibility and simultaneously an increasing scepticism towards the visual rendition of war, ranging from Baudrillard’s claim that ‘the Gulf war did not take place’ (Baudrillard, 1991) due to its contained imagery, to the case of Abu Ghraib, responsible for disclosing an inside view of war hitherto kept away from public sight. Brian de Palma’s Redacted (2007), more than a film about the war in Iraq, is a reflection on the conditions of seeing and showing war within a convergence culture (Jenkins, 2008). By integrating the plurality of visual representations of war in contemporary culture, from conventional documentaries and surveillance footage to soldier’s private videos, de Palma interrogates previous ways of seeing war, from Vietnam to the Gulf war, whilst probing the limits of the current visibility paradigm. This paper will examine de Palma’s film as a meta-visual object that self- reflects on the history of war film while questioning the conflation of transparency and truth in a hyper-mediated world.
By leaking data about the NSA and PRISM, now infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden, almost single-handedly, destabilized a hegemonic system based on the control and distribution of information. He violated the ‘knowledge-is-power’ paradigm, one of the most crucial elements of establishing and maintaining (governmental) power. In order to contain the threat Snowden posed (and still poses), US government officials and the media created a rhetoric that focused on Snowden’s physical body. In this way, the body of Snowden materialized into, among other things, the location of the leaked information and the bearer of data, secrets, and knowledge. Therefore, the fact that his absent body made headlines on June 23, 2013 during his supposed flight from Moscow to Havana seems logical. In this paper I will connect the discourse surrounding Snowden’s body to the digital visual image of the empty seat, which was first published via Twitter, to investigate how this image means. To do so, negotiations of concepts concerned with form, such as Hans Belting’s ‘iconic presence,’ and posthuman understandings of dis/embodiment and materiality will be consulted. Using the visualization of Snowden’s physical absence, I argue for a struggle to contain, control, or even grasp disembodied infor- mation that reveals both an reliance on the body, or materiality, and, in this case, an attempt to use (the discursively created) Snow- den as a mediator between information and its form.
⎯ Saturday 10th May 2.15 pm Panel VII & VIII
Panel VII: Between Soft Power and Warfare: Trust and Security in North American Intelligence and Foreign Policy
Panel Chair: Christian Lammert
Sarah Earnshaw: Engendering Trust in US Post-Cold War Foreign Policy: A Foucauldian Analysis of the Construction of Dominant Security Threats
In the wake of 9/11, the ensuing framing and execution of a ‘global war on terror’ undertaken by the George W. Bush administration focused debate concerning North American security discourses and foreign policy upon exceptionalism and pre-emptive action. This paper argues that what constitutes a security threat is socially constructed, and reproduced discursively through the disciplinary knowledges monopolized and proliferated by experts. Their authority, to which the populace must defer, necessitates a relationship of trust in the decision-making apparatus, which this paper traces through the construction of particular truths. In doing this, it draws upon research by the Paris School of critical security studies. I examine the dominant intellectual currents running through US foreign policy circles after the Cold War, leading to a potentially limitless conflict against the ‘Other’, embodied within global terrorist net- works and the ‘rogue’ states enabling their existence. The paper applies a Foucauldian lens: his conception of the relation between knowledge and power conceives of the production of competing discourses that result in the (re)production of ‘regimes of truth’, ultimately considered fact. The neo-optimist interpretation of the new international sphere following Soviet collapse, explicated in Fukuyama’s The End of History (1992), posited the liberal democratic state as the final political ideology. This was echoed in the for- eign policies of both the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. I argue that this shaped the American response to 9/11 and underpinned the adoption of the Bush Doctrine, manifest in the pre-emptive (or arguably preventive) National Security Strategy of 2002. As a liberal democracy, war making must be justified to the population as being beneficial to the community and ensuring na- tional security.
In my paper I will explore the intelligence liaison between the United States and West Germany, which was a striking example for the fragile and delicate imperative for trust—and, at the same time, a serious security hazard. By establishing cooperation with German Wehrmacht General Reinhard Gehlen as early as in the fall of 1945, the US military set the cornerstone both for a close intelligence relationship and for the future Bundesnachrichtendienst. By focusing on the issue of mutual trust with relation to mistrust my ap- proach allows a deeper understanding of transnational collaboration. In political rhetoric ‘trust’ is a powerful trope. Various speeches, policy papers and internal notes use the term ‘trust’ and emphasize its crucial meaning for partnerships. The benefits of mutual trust, resulting in not only bureaucratic facilitation but also personal relations, seem apparent, and were an undeniable part of building a relationship between US and German intelligence organizations. Indicating factors for or against trustworthiness include mostly rather soft assessments and consist of a mixture of facts and rumours: polite demeanour, personal manner, and discussion about moral behaviour (heavy drinking, promiscuity, homosexuality). Personal feelings like antipathy or friendship often outweighed considerations of rational decision-making. While taking the risk of trusting a former enemy on the sensitive field of intelligence the US tried to retain control over Gehlen and his organization. The leap of faith did not result from goodwill but from strategic calculations—the fear of the USSR exceeded the bias associated with personnel and information coming from Germany. Beginning in the late 1950s an alteration and decline in the CIA’s appraisal for the liaison occurred emphasizing the risks and errors more than its value. Damaging double agent cases, intelligence failures and the search for leaks within the German service during the 1960s changed the US agencies’ appreciation for it on a personal and an institutional level. The relationship’s history reflects a curve of trust and distrust related to the promising but risky concept of shared intelligence until the late 1980s. This contradicts the image of a homogeneous Western block, and helps us understand the instability within a rarely questioned formation.
The question of trust and distrust of the Canadian polity has assumed a central place under the Harper Conservative government. In terms of domestic politics, recent polls show that the level of trust in the Prime Minister and his cabinet has achieved record lows, notwithstanding the loyalty of a shrinking (neo)-conservative base. At the same time, recent revelations from sources such as Wiki- Leaks, which detail increasing efforts on the part of the Canadian government, to engage in wide-spread and intrusive surveillance of the Canadian public, suggest the level of trust of the Harper government in the Canadian people is equally low. In terms of Canada’s activities on the world stage, the abandonment of Canada’s traditional middle-power even-handedness on issues from the environ- ment to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has led traditional supporters in the international community to distance themselves from Canada and its positions. At the same time, the Harper government has made it clear that outside of its traditional allies (US, Britain), it has little confidence in international relations to advance a policy agenda compatible with Canadian interests as it defines them. This paper will examine the implications of this multi-faceted and many-sided loss of trust in the Canadian polity for Canadian policy and politics, both foreign and domestic.
Panel VIII: Uncertain Times: Trust and Trauma in American Literature after 2000
Panel Chair: Thomas Dikant
Florian Groß: ‘Hey, If You Can’t Trust Another Kugelblitz Mom?’: 9/11, The Dot-Com Bubble and Family in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleed- ing Edge
Three months after the NSA surveillance scandal transpired, Thomas Pynchon released his most recent novel. Set in ‘2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dotcom boom and the terrible events of September 11th,’ Bleeding Edge follows the inves- tigation of a working mother into a potential connection between an internet security firm and terrorist activities. The novel shows how various kinds of trust were shattered during this era: trust in America’s invincibility, trust in the government, and especially trust in the New Economy. Instead of liberating people and democratizing the exchange of information, Bleeding Edge depicts an internet that has become an oppressive agent of surveillance and a place where human beings literally become data. Furthermore, written in the style of a noir tale of detection, Pynchon’s novel once more raises more questions than it answers, casting doubt on any trust in a neat epistemology. Still, the novel presents one rather conventional, even conservative answer to its complex questions and myster- ies: in the face of terrorist atrocities and informational oppression, the only ‘trustworthy’ system the mother-detective can eventually rely on is her immediate family. My paper explores how Pynchon’s novel represents and negotiates issues of trust and how it con- structs immediate forms of social organization (family, kinship, friendship) as alternatives to paranoia. While the latter is the result of too much information, possibility, and contingency, the former is based on the ‘reduction of social complexity’ and thus becomes a source of trust (Luhmann, Vertrauen).
Julian Henneberg: In Search of the ‘Third Culture’: Technoscience, Truth, and Trust in the Work of Richard Powers
‘But a life of neuroscience had proved that symbols were real. No place else to live,’ a cognitive neurologist concludes in Richard Pow- ers’s 2006 novel The Echo Maker. Conflating brain science and linguistic-symbolic constructivism, this sentence encapsulates the con- cerns that tie The Echo Maker to Powers’s earlier novel Galatea 2.2 (1995). Drawing on techno-scientific discourses for their plots, personnel, and poetics, these texts register an erosion of trust in traditionally humanistic forms of knowledge. Hailed as ‘the novelist of science studies’ (Bruno Latour), Powers self-consciously positions himself as a representative of a ‘third culture’ that attempts to overcome a supposed rift between the humanities and the sciences. Not coincidentally, Powers develops this position at a moment when postmodernism and poststructuralism—itself phenomena characterized by a programmatic lack of trust (in truth claims; in manifest meaning)—are cited as causes of a crisis in humanities, and ‘neo-naturalist’ approaches offer scientific ‘truth’ in compensa- tion for the loss of trust in linguistic and cultural meaning-production. Interestingly, Galatea 2.2 and The Echo Maker pursue a project of restoring trust in humanistic ideas and techniques not in opposition to technoscientific discourses, but rather through them. By having neurology and cognitive science provide his texts’ themes and tropes, Powers demonstrates his assumption that such a resto- ration of trust needs to proceed by way of an ‘apology for fiction in a postfictional age’ that pits humanist against ‘posthumanist’ ideas.
Art Spiegelman’s 2004 graphic narrative In the Shadow of No Towers is one of the most original works in the recent crop of innovative autobiographical comics exploring the narrative and stylistic possibilities the medium has to offer. It is also amongst the most intri- guing works dealing with 9/11 and the War on Terror. On September 11th, 2001, Spiegelman became a first-hand witness to the ter- rorist attacks on the World Trade Center—an event which, as he claims, ‘left [him] reeling on that faultline where World History and Personal History collide’. No Towers traces the artist’s experience of that day and his subsequent descent into a state of paranoia—in his words, he feels ‘equally terrorized by Al Qaeda and by his own government’. Going far beyond a mere visual presentation of the fractured state of mind inherent to post-traumatic stress disorder on the one hand, and a scathing critique of the propaganda politics of the Bush administration on the other, No Towers can be read as a report from the frontline of the war of images. This paper thus explores how Spiegelman utilizes the formal possibilities of the comics medium, with its unique possibilities of reader/viewer involve- ment, to engage in the rhetoric of images unleashed in the wake of 9/11.