Terrorism, Precarity, Security: 9/11 Revisited
This essay re-examines 9/11 through the twin lenses of security and precarity. As Judith Butler writes, Americans experienced “something like the loss of their First Worldism” in 2001 (Precarious Life 39). What followed – a profound reconfiguration of the security paradigm – was coupled with an unprecedented wave of anti-intellectualism. In this essay, I examine Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (2007), as a response to that national crisis of confidence. Centred on the idea of bare life – encapsulated by the image of a body in free fall – the novel strips back the dominant affects of national affront and retributive violence, in which, as Giorgio Agamben argues, terrorism and security reinforce each other in an escalating cycle, showing how a different mode of mourning and survival might begin in the rubble of the towers. For Butler, the urgent and difficult task underscored by 9/11 is that of imagining a new basis for community on the ground of our shared vulnerability. Falling Man begins that work, showing us 9/11 afresh, as a revelation of collective precarity.