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Undecided life: Standards, subjects, and sovereignty in compensating victims of the war on terror

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journal contribution
posted on 25.02.2016, 12:58 by Matthew James Allen, Steven D. Brown
In this article we examine the relationship between standards and subjectivity in the context of compensating the victims of terrorism. We do so by drawing on a corpus of data that features survivor and bereaved accounts of two twenty-first century terrorist attacks. We investigate the distressing period in which compensation claims remained undecided, in some cases for over seven years after the attacks, and how the process of assessment acts as a ‘technology of desubjectification’. To articulate this we turn to Giorgio Agamben’s notion of ‘undecidability’ in which the ambiguity between life and law is used by governing authorities to suspend and blur key distinctions such as what lies inside or outside the juridical order. In particular we aim to clarify that, in the context of claiming compensation for an act of terrorism, being undecided is a means by which the state maintains claimants within a ‘holding category’ of victimhood that prevents their recognition as a political subject. We conclude with some reflection on how technologies of desubjectification operate within an ‘age of austerity’. Critical psychology need to update its neo-Foucauldian understanding of subjectivity to include the production of ‘cranked subjects’.

History

Citation

Theory and Psychology, 2016, 26(2), pp. 263-283

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of Management

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Theory and Psychology

Publisher

SAGE Publications (UK and US)

issn

1461-7447

eissn

0959-3543

Acceptance date

08/02/2016

Copyright date

2016

Available date

25/02/2016

Publisher version

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959354316638473

Language

en