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An examination of the dictates and implications of contemporary counter-terrorism in the United States, this article analyzes the rhetorical tropes, historical precursors, and political valences of the "war on terrorism" as they pertain to the nature of sovereignty, the status of law, and the formation of political subjectivity. Building from a consideration of the demonological discourse on terrorism and the history of counterterrorism during the cold war, the article turns to the contingent sovereignty conferred to other states in the Bush administration'sNationalSecurity Strategy and as borne out by its recent foreign policy and military actions. It notes a parallel development within domestic politics since September 11, as the administration seeks to consolidate sovereign authority against the other branches of government, evidenced most clearly in contests with the judiciary over the legitimacy of military tribunals and the legal status of "unlawful" and "enemy combatants." Pursuing its thesis that counterterrorism as promulgated by the Bush administration needs to be registered as an emergent political rationality, the article draws from the thought of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault for its concluding analysis of the effects of counterterrorist surveillance and other forms of social regulation on political subjectivity and the enactment of democratic freedom.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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