Trust Your Senses?: Militarism and Multiculture

Prof. Les Back

This presentation was a part of Session two: Colonialism, Airpower and Race, From 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm on Friday 11th November, 2011, Lower Ground 02, New Academic Building, Goldsmiths


The paper begins with a re-reading of the wartime essays of Virginia Woolf and George Orwell on the nature and affects of aerial bombing.  In each case it is argued that the experience of being bombed reveals both the nature of nationalism and the education of the senses.  It is suggested
that Britain can be conceived as both a bombed and a bombing culture.  Through a review of the work of critical historians an account of the
relationship between colonial power and bombing is offered.  In addition, a brief discussion is included of the historical amnesia regarding the
position of colonial soldiers within accounts of World War Two.  It is suggested that contemporary debates about nationalism and racism would
benefit from developing analytical conversations between militarism, formations of nationalism and the issue of contemporary multiculturalism.
The paper develops as an analytical metaphor the notion of the racist nervous systems that attempts to foreground the affective dimensions of
the process of race making. The article ends with a discussion of the relationship between these processes and multiculturalism, the ‘war on
terror’ and the role of the British army – many of whom are recruited from Commonwealth countries – in global counterinsurgency.