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Jonathan Luke Austin | The Poetry of Moans and Sighs: Designs for and against Evil

Abstract

Can we think of war asubjectively? Today, the contours of warfare are expeditionary, spatially disembedded and temporally expansive. Broadly, these trends hint at an ontology of war exceeding identifiable subjects around which to attribute its origins and prevalence. War is coming to be seen in machinic terms, driving on and expanding regardless of our desires. These controversial conceptualizations radically challenge the basis of most social scientific understandings of war and profoundly disorder (international) legal understandings of justice, accountability and responsibility. In this essay, I begin by reading the asubjective nature of war through an engagement with Ahmed Saadawi’s novel Frankenstein in Baghdad, which depicts post-2003 Iraq as a warscape stalked by the “Whatsitsname,” a monstrous presence stitched together from the bodies of those killed across the
city by different political factions. Drawing on Donna Haraway’s notion of response-ability, I suggest the Whatsitsname can serve not only as a metaphor for the asubjective ontology of war but also as a means through which to imagine new modes of intervening against that asubjectivity. I thus conclude
by speculating on the possibility of developing what I term a material-aesthetic poetics of designing against war, evil and violence.

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