Terror and the Arts


Terror, dread, and violence against civilian populations constitute a true predicament of our contemporary political world. Authoritarian governments develop methods to capitalize on the arts in support of terror, where violence and trauma provoke more of the same in a vicious circle. This book argues that the arts - from film and literature to painting and comics - offers qualitatively different readings of terror and trauma, readings that endeavor to resist the exploitation and perpetuation of violence. The contributors suggest that political inquiry into the phenomenon of terror may benefit profoundly by developing non-reductive ways of reading the arts.

  • Palgrave Macmillan; August 2008
  • ISBN 9780230614130
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Terror and the Arts
  • Author: Lisa Muszynski (ed.)
  • Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan

In The Press

"Terror and the Arts vividly explores the fractures and paradoxes of contemporary politics from the viewpoint of aesthetic experience. Be it visual, literary, poetic or musical, art allows us an insight into the terrorized present that can perhaps help in framing it differently, criticizing and avoiding the automatic response of aggression and retaliation. Whoever thinks that the present confronts us with the need to re-think and re-name contemporary violence must read this challenging collection of essays." - Adriana Cavarero, author of Horrorism: Naming Contemporary Violence


"Terror mobilizes the arts, visual and narrative, as well as their scholarly study. Not only, as can be expected, for the struggle against terrorism or for working through the trauma. In surveying the spaces between general human response to terror and defined political engagement, the insightful and often controversial chapters of this volume also raise more disconcerting questions: about complexities of judgment in the artistic processing of terror, about the possible competition between the arts and the acts that raise the threshold for subversion and shock, about the ways in which the arts can slide or be coerced into normalizing terror or furthering the issues promoted by terrorist groups or regimes, about the arts' entrapment in the cultural circulation under the sign of terror, and about the ways in which the arts, politicized by terror, inevitably implicate their audience. The book opens new intellectual vistas, rejecting comfortable attitudes." - Leona Toker, Professor of English, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


"How can cataclysmic traumas such as 9/11 or appalling spectacles such as Abu Ghraib be made the objects of art, and what political value might they have?  By 'reading the arts politically,' Terror and the Arts demonstrates with great clarity and insight the vitally important role of the arts in imaginatively 'working through' the unspeakable violence of our age." - Mark Freeman, College of the Holy Cross and author of Rewriting the Self 

About The Author

Matti Hyvärinen is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow, Department of Sociology and Social Psychology, University of Tampere. Lisa Muszynski is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social Science History, University of Helsinki and an associate member of the Politics and the Arts research team at the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Political Thought and Conceptual Change.