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Whiteness or Resilience? Placing Terror by Studying the Charleston, South Carolina Mother Emanuel Church Shooting

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How do ideas of place support the development of racialized identities in times of terror violence? We situate this paper in the “deep” south via the shooting of 9 black churchgoers by a white supremacist. We explore how the community mobilized after the massacre, and in what ways it relied on ideas of place. While many claimed that the community exemplified resilience, we demonstrate a process of re-racialization.  We analyzed local media to document place framing.  This frame was recirculated in reporting of residents’ expressions about the tragedy. We conducted interviews with community leaders to deepen our understanding. We find that while place played a powerful role in the resilience narrative, the resilience was ultimately one of a city of whiteness. We advance several points: (1) whiteness adapts in times of terror; (2) place is important in the security studies; and (3) place also plays a role in attenuating fear.
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Keywords: Terrorism; place; race; resilience; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, College of Charleston, Charleston, USA 2: Department of African American Studies, College of Charleston, Charleston, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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