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Cloud - Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol 90 No 3 August 2004...

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Unformatted text preview: Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 90, No. 3, August 2004, pp. 285–306 “To Veil the Threat of Terror”: Afghan Women and the Clash of Civilizations in the Imagery of the U.S. War on Terrorism Dana L. Cloud This article explores the role of widely circulated images of Afghan people in building public support for the 2001–2002 U.S. war with Afghanistan. Emphasizing images of women, I argue that these representations participate in the more general category of “the clash of civilizations,” which constitutes a verbal and a visual ideograph linked to the idea of the “white man’s burden.” Through the construction of binary oppositions of self and Other, the evocation of a paternalistic stance toward the women of Afghanistan, and the figuration of modernity as liberation, these images participate in a set of justifications for war that contradicts the actual motives for the war. These contradictions have a number of implications for democratic deliberation and public life during wartime. Keywords: Afghanistan; Clash of Civilizations; Ideograph; Image; Imperialism; Photojournalism; Visual Rhetoric; Terrorism; War; White Man’s Burden; Women 1899: Take up the White Man’s burden— Send forth the best ye breed— Go, bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; To wait, in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild— Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child. Take up the White Man’s burden— Dana L. Cloud is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas. She thanks Angela Aguayo and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights during revision. Correspondence to CMA 7.114, 1 University Station A1105, Austin, TX 78712, U.S. Email: [email protected] ISSN 0033–5630 (print)/ISSN 1479-5779 (online) 2004 National Communication Association DOI: 10.1080/0033563042000270726 286 D. Cloud In patience to abide, To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride. 1 2002: The picture that emerges [from rhetoric about war in Afghanistan] is a land teeming with wild-eyed warlords, malnourished children, abused women, mud huts and treacherous mountain terrain whose caverns and underground caves are home to minions of malevolence—basically, a scene out of Lord of the Rings. 2 The phrase “clash of civilizations,” popularized in the 1990s by Samuel Hunting- ton, 3 refers to the idea that the United States and its people face an incontrovertible conflict with Others, particularly Islamic Others, whose civilizations are inferior and hostile to Western capitalism. This rhetoric of the clash of societies destined by nature to be enemies is not a recent invention, however. David Spurr has argued that the idea of immutable clash between allegedly superior and inferior civilizations has been part of the rhetoric of U.S. imperialism since at least the end of the 19th century....
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Cloud - Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol 90 No 3 August 2004...

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