Ground Zero: reflections on trauma, in/distinction and response

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This essay traces practices of tourism and memory at Ground Zero in New York in 2001 in an attempt to understand the perceived significance of what had happened and what it was that had been seen as traumatic. It describes the endless circling of the site, and the need for people to see for themselves. It argues that what happened included not just the impact of the planes but the collapse of the twin towers and the wound to the cityscape that followed. This exploration leads the paper to propose a more all‐embracing view of trauma, not as an injury to the flesh, to the psyche, to the community, or to the built environment, but as the name for an event where the very distinctions between body, psyche, community and environment are called into question. Practices that took place after 9.11 reveal how visitors and rescue workers sought, for example by taking photographs and in their insistent search for remains, to reinstate distinctions that had been obliterated, and how they struggled not only against the use of victims as a means that took place that day, but the ongoing instrumentalisation of life that takes place anyway under contemporary systems of sovereign power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-270
Number of pages24
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2004


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