All posts by Lily Barnett

Japanese Internment & Policing of Middle Eastern Bodies

For my RBA, I plan to research parallels between Japanese internment in response to Pearl Harbor and the policing of Middle Eastern bodies after 9/11 to show that containment culture and the marginalization of races is been embedded in American history. Due to extreme paranoia, the races held responsible for Pearl Harbor and 9/11 soon became seen as the “enemy,” and the military swept up innocent people and forced them into detention facilities in order to increase national security. However, as I will prove in my RBA, containment has only exposed America to racism, xenophobia, and animosity, leading America to be less safe. Below depicts the possible structure for my RBA:

barnett-rba-outline

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Guantanamo Bay & Combating Terrorism

I am researching how the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay has impacted America’s ability to combat terrorism. My topic reveals how containment of individuals in an effort to lessen violence can actually exacerbate it, displayed by the idea that detention at Guantanamo fueled terrorist organizations.

Many scholars have debated the tactics used at Guantanamo Bay and the resulting impacts on the war on terror. Some historians, such as Gerard P. Fogarty, have explored the benefits of Guantanamo Bay, including how it has improved the security of the United States by allowing the government to better understand al Qaeda and its affiliates, which is critical to disrupting their attack plans. However, the majority of scholars have argued that unlawful detention has hurt America’s ability to combat terrorism. The use of torture has encouraged foreign extremists to join terrorist organizations because leaders of terrorist groups use Guantanamo Bay as a recruiting tool to justify hatred toward Americans. Additionally, many historians have suggested that Guantanamo Bay and other forms of detention has lead to increased domestic and international criticism of the United States. This makes it challenging for America to recruit Iraqi allies, weakening America’s ability to combat terrorism. Historians also discuss how unlawful responses to terrorism can worsen our military’s professionalism, integrity, and recruitment and can even reduce the government’s influence, authority, and power. In my RBA, I want to argue that Guantanamo Bay has fueled terrorist organizations. I would like to use Guantanamo Bay to show that when countries contain individuals in an effort to control violence, the effects of the containment can exacerbate the issue. In particular, when they are contained based on race, those individuals are more likely to resent those who capture them because of the discrimination.

Star Trek & Avatar Cultural Critiques

Nicholas Evan Sarantakes suggests that makers of Star Trek used allegories to critique U.S. foreign policy and to show how America could play a powerful and constructive role internationally. For example, “Patterns of Force” is one allegory that promoted a democratic approach to foreign policy. In the episode, Kirk and Spock, two officers, travel on the Starship Enterprise to Ekos to discover why John Gill, a researcher, disappeared. They discover that a Nazi movement, introduced by Gill, has taken control of Ekos. Kirk and Spock enter the Nazi headquarters and learn that Gill was drugged by his deputy. After getting a doctor to neutralize the drug, the two learn that Gill started the Nazi movement “to unify the planet.” The Enterprise officers persuade him to call off the attack of a nearby planet Zeon. According to Sarantakes, the episode suggests that “the United States should make no effort to impose its will on other countries. Regardless of motivation, attempts to intervene will have repercussions for which Americans will be responsible.” This argument that America should not intervene in other countries is elucidated when Gill tells Kirk that “non-interference directive is the only way.” Additionally, “Patterns of Force” is used as an allegory to imply that democracy is the superior form of government. Kirk directly tells Spock that the leader principle is the major problem with the Nazis. Thus, the episode suggests that a form of government in which one leader is in control is inferior to democracy because it often leads to violence.

Science fiction and fantasy writing is commonly used as a tool to challenge political and cultural ideologies, Star Trek being one of many examples. One reason it gives writers an opportunity to challenge certain ideologies is that writers can use metaphors or allegories to critique things indirectly. Because the writers are not directly challenging ideologies but instead using allegories to do so, it is more discrete and less obvious; therefore, backlash is less likely to result. Another example of science fiction that provides a cultural critique is Avatar, a futuristic movie about a planet Pandora. People on earth need resources and go to the planet to secure them. They use force to move the Pandoran race in order to secure their resources. The movie is pro-environmental and anti-war. It also shows what the world would be like if indigenous people were able to keep their cultures, instead of being taken over by European colonizers. Both Star Trek and Avatar are examples of science fiction writing that indirectly offer critiques of cultural ideologies.

Hiroshima & Twin Towers

Matthew Farish suggests that divisions between suburbanization and urbanization led to both spatial containment and also, due to increasing paranoia about atomic attacks, proposals to adjust the fabric of cities. Because the United States had a high urban to non-urban ratio, there was growing fear that it would be a target of atomic attacks. When Farish says, “Central cities, for many commentators, were spaces of blight, repositories of extreme cultures, classes and races, threatened from above and within,” he builds on this idea. Central cities were sources of “extreme cultures, classes and races” because of white flight: people of various European ancestries moved from racially mixed urban areas to suburbs, regions that were mostly racially homogeneous. Additionally, Farish states that urban cities were “threatened from above and within” because they were overpopulated, with mostly racially mixed people. This resulted in many scientists and political commentators arguing that atomic disasters would affect many people and that decentralization would be the most effective solution. However, some people believed that the cost of distributing towns would be too damaging to American military tactics. This growing paranoia of the attacks represents a broader fear of America losing its “culture of victory.” America, eager to be dominant, did not want to be seen as declining.

Farish also discusses an obsession with urban disaster during the Cold War, resulting from images of Hiroshima. Similarly, the imagery of the falling Twin Towers has stood as a powerful symbol for post 9/11 United States. Many Americans that lived during 9/11 remember seeing the image on TV, and it has stuck with them throughout their lives as something that evokes fear and sadness. The growing sense of fear is similar to the paranoia of a nuclear attack that resulted in suburbanization during the Cold War. While the fear of nuclear attacks led to movement into suburbs, fear following 9/11 led to increased security measures. The image of the twin towers represents terrorism and danger in America, while also showing that America will remain a strong nation. Many images, in fact, depict the twin towers with the American flag draped around them, behind them, or somewhere in the image. Thus, in a way, the image also represents patriotism.

With Us or the Terrorists

President Bush’s words after 9/11 “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” support the binary division of “Same” and “Other.” He delivers the idea that if one does not support all that the government stands for, he or she is automatically “with the terrorists,” suggesting that in order to be considered “American,” one must conform and agree with all of the government’s values and ideas. His claim instills the idea that members of the “American” group are “non-dangerous” and secure. Those of the un-American, “Other” group are “dangerous” and Evil. Bush thus strengthens the binary division, which results in the “Other” group being looked at with suspicion and treated with hostility.

Containment Culture in “The Night Of”

HBO’s “The Night Of” unfolds the life of the protagonist Nasir (Naz) Khan, a Pakistani-American college student living in New York City post-9/11. The mini series explores one crime through various angles. In the opening episode, Naz borrows his father’s taxi to go to a party in the city. A beautiful woman, Andrea, enters his vehicle, and the night is soon filled with sex and drugs. The next morning, Naz wakes up to find Andrea stabbed to death, and he cannot remember what happened. He leaves the scene and is later arrested—the police discover a bloody knife matching the murder weapon inside Naz’s jacket and witnesses identify him. Naz is sent to manhattan Central Booking and then to Rikers Island jail.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=556N5vojtp0

Naz, a “good boy” from a middle-class family, is soon immersed in a place filled with rape, beatings, knifings, and drug smuggling. The character is changed by his experiences: he eventually begins to lift weights, shaves his head, gets “SIN” and “BAD” tattooed on his fingers, and partakes in drug smuggling and prison beatings. Even though Naz is eventually released, he is forever changed. The transformation of Naz’s character due to imprisonment elucidates the fault in the criminal justice system, America’s way of “containing” the “dangerous” population. It depicts the ways prison can, in fact, make inhabitants more violent and dangerous than they were before entering the system.

Naz’s experience also demonstrates post-9/11 prejudices. In and out of prison, he receives Islamophobic slurs, and his family also experiences similar struggles. His father loses his cab because of Naz’s case and is treated by previous friends and other community members with hostility. Even after Naz is released, strangers and previous friends stare at Naz intimidatingly, and he is unable to escape Islamophobia.

The show’s exploration of the criminal justice system and Islamophobia relates to the nuclear gaze found in both post Cold War and post 9/11 culture. The gaze resulted from constant fear of a nuclear holocaust after the Cold War or, in this case, another terrorist attack after 9/11. Many Americans feared anyone who deviated from the norm, thus creating a distinction between the “Other” and “Same” and “dangerous” and “non-dangerous” activity. Naz is classified as the “Other” because he is Pakistani and is thus frequently considered “dangerous.” In order to control increased danger, containment is used to place the “Other” in separate groups. In this case, the “Other” is placed in a prison, in an effort to isolate “dangerous” people from a “safe” society. However, containment of an already stereotyped individual perpetuates the stereotype of the race, exemplified by the fact that Naz leaves prison more violent and aggressive than before. When races are contained in high profile ways, the result is increased racism and paranoia.