chapter  11
13 Pages

Reading after Terror: The Reluctant Fundamentalist and First- World Allegory

ByNEELAM SRIVASTAVA

A body of Anglo-American criticism on the fi ctional and fi lmic representations of 9/11 has recently begun to emerge, though few critics so far have dealt specifi cally with the role of readers and audiences in relationship to these texts. Images of Palestinians apparently celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers circulated extensively around the globe in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, and became a popular stereotypical image representing certain responses from the Muslim world. These visual reproductions of the discrepant audience not only introduced the possibility of a polysemic reading of this event, but also provoked a general questioning that was conveniently condensed in George Bush’s question to Congress in the days after September 11: “Why do they hate us?” Commentators suggested that trends in the US media which began in the 1980s, under the Reagan administration, had led to a reduction of foreign correspondents and of international news coverage; this became “a key factor in early media descriptions of 9/11 as a baffl ing, inexplicable and motiveless event” (Holloway 2008, 59). Bush’s question also highlighted “the luxury of not having had to know, a parochialism and insularity that those on the margins can neither enjoy nor afford”. Derek Gregory interpreted Bush’s Candide-like question as imbued with the arrogance of the imperial gaze (Gregory 2004, 21). The baffl ed reaction of American political authorities and of some Western media commentators suggests that there was no readily available interpretative frame through which to view or understand this event.