Lecture by Fatima Mojaddedi, UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology.
Between 2006-2015 approximately 1,052 suicide attacks occurred in Afghanistan, killing 4,845 and wounding 12,079 people. This talk considers this incredible violence alongside questions of orality and mechanical technologies of reproduction, especially photography. Based on the grueling trials of failed bombers in Kabul, it analyzes confusion about the nature of legal authority (consternation with finger-printing, photography, public defenders, and due process), and illustrates the force of photographic fetish in establishing an evidential basis that obviates the actual oral testimony of the bombers. Crime scene photographs and cell phone images and videos of terroristic activity are interpreted as indexical signs of intensifying violence. Photographs not only double as testimony and evoke truth-value, but they also stage a repetition at two crucial levels: 1) the spectacular crimes they depict (which did not occur) will happen again since they were attempted by compulsive and self-destructive persons and 2) the possibility of different outcomes are subsumed by the belief that suicide terror will continuously occur. If during the tumultuous decades of Afghan modernism technologies of reproduction were joined by the fantasy of ideological assimilation, in the contemporary moment of total warfare photographic and cellular technology transforms repetition from a potential site of excess (the repetition of trauma, death, and bomb explosions) to the reclamation of photographic aura and the silencing of oral testimony by the Afghan judicial system.
Fatima Mojaddedi is a President's Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley and completed her PhD in Anthropology at Columbia University. Her ethnographic research is based in Kabul, Afghanistan where she considers total warfare and catastrophe alongside questions of linguistic meaning, representation, causality, and economic value. She has also conducted extensive archival research in Kabul and London, and is interested in contemporary philosophy, literary theory, media theory and psychoanalysis.