With Daanish Mustafa, King’s College, London
Drawing upon Hannah Arendt, I problematize the geography of violence to argue that organized (political) violence is not only about death and destruction but also, more importantly, about the control of the public sphere, and vitally, the reorganization of political space. To make this argument I couple a spatial definition of terror and terrorism with Hannah Arendt’s theses on totalitarianism and the Human Condition. A brief review of the activities of Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan’s (TTP) during their brief control of the Swat valley in Pakistan suggests that they were about the production of a ‘specimen of a species’ homo Islamicus through their universalized terror. The spectacular violence was essential to Taliban’s governmentality—as it has been to the governmentality of other totalitarian states and movements. The spectacular violence is directed towards elimination of worldliness, plurality and life, so that spaces for spontaneous action are eliminated and the public sphere is destroyed. The practical implication of the argument is that unlike the present Pakistani state policy of countering violence with militarily superior violence, a more productive pathway could be protection and further opening of spaces for the performance of politics in an extended public sphere. The Pakistani state however, seems to be doing quite the opposite so far.
The research for this presentation was undertaken with Katherine Brown (King’s College, London) and Matthew Tillotson (Sheffield University).
Daanish Mustafa is a Reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography King’s College, London. His research has been at the intersection of water resources, hazards and development geographies. He has also maintained an active research and publication agenda in critical geographies of violence and terror. Daanish’s research has been mostly in Pakistan, but has also included Central Asia, West Asia, Central America and the United States. The U.S. National Science Foundation, Belmont Forum, National Geographic Society, IDRC/DFID, National Environmental Research Council (NERC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others, have supported his research.