Terror and Performance  book cover
1st Edition

Terror and Performance

ISBN 9781138014275
Published April 7, 2014 by Routledge
254 Pages

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Book Description

‘This work goes where other books fear to tread.  It reaches the parts other scholars might imagine in their dreams but would neither have the international reach nor the critical acumen and forensic flourish to deliver.’ Alan Read, King's College London

‘This book is not only timely.  It is overdue – and it is a masterpiece unrivalled by any book I know of.’  Erika Fischer-Lichte, Freie Universität Berlin

‘The first and only book that focuses on the intersections of performance, terror and terrorism as played out beyond a Euro-American context post-9/11.  It is an important work, both substantively and methodologically.’ Jenny Hughes, University of Manchester

‘A profound and tightly bound sequence of reflections … a rigorously provocative book.’ Stephen Barber, Kingston University London

In this exceptional investigation Rustom Bharucha considers the realities of Islamophobia, the legacies of Truth and Reconciliation, the deadly certitudes of State-controlled security systems and the legitimacy of counter-terror terrorism, drawing on a vast spectrum of human cruelties across the global South. The outcome is a brilliantly argued case for seeing terror as a volatile and mutant phenomenon that is deeply lived, experienced, and performed within the cultures of everyday life.

Table of Contents

Preface i-vii



Introduction: Mapping Terror in the War of Words 1-39



Doublespeak of ‘terrorism’

Risks of misunderstanding

Ambivalences of terror

Holy Terror

Terror through a literary lens

Visual overkill


Dangerous liaisons: terror and performance



1. Genet in Manila: ‘September 11’ in Retrospect 40-88




Deadly Innocence


Politics of the ‘real’

Event/betrayal: rethinking the political

‘September 11’: first exposure



Genres of terror

  1. tragedy
  2. Theatre of Cruelty

The terror of repetition

Deconstructing terror

  1. trauma
  2. autoimmunity


  1. Stockhausen’s blunder
  2. The politics of empathy



Exit the Theatre



2. ‘Muslims’ in a Time of Terror: Deceptions,

Demonization, and Uncertainties of Evidence 89-130



Passing as a Muslim

Constructing ‘Muslims’

Phenomenology of passing

Queering the Muslim terrorist: beards and penises

The beautiful terrorist

The Sikh as Muslim




The Indian Muslim as Other

Genocide in Godhra

‘Dead certainty’: the limits of performativity

Outing the self







3. Countering Terror? The Search for Justice through

Truth and Reconciliation 131-186



Mapping the Terrain


Multiple locations, different stakes

The right to intervene





The terror of statistics

Realizing the unthinkable: the provocation of gacaca

Gacaca as performance: a theoretical trap?

Dramaturgy of gacaca

The evidence of experience

Performing Rwandanicity



South Africa


The ‘impossible machine’

The theatricality of hearings

Amnesty in performance

Between performance and justice: an ethical impasse

The ‘truth’ of story-telling



Key Motifs of Truth and Reconciliation


Performing silence

Forgiveness, or ‘living with evil’?

Time and reconciliation





4. Performing Non-Violence in the Age of Terror 187-231


Enter Gandhi

Gandhi as Truth Commission

Performing the Truth Commission

The performativity of salt

Non-violence: sacrifice or suicide?

Suicide bombing: acts of performance

‘Just War’: ambivalences and duplicities

Training to die?: the viability of non-violence

The violence of non-violence

Lip-sewing and blood graffiti: the weapons of the weak

Towards justice?

Postscript 232-239

Notes 240-285

Bibliography 286-300


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Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. He is a writer, director, dramaturg and cultural critic, as well as the author of several books, including Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture (Routledge, 1993).


'Rustom Bharucha’s Terror and Performance stages a rigorous and challenging analysis of the relation between terror and performance. The book unpacks the entangled relations between performance, embodiment, violence and history. In the course of his book, Bharucha raises provocative questions that unsettle doxic understandings of both terror and terrorism. His book, I argue, works to materialise unspeakable truths that shed light on the complex aporias that inscribe the relation between terror and performance.' - Joseph Pugliese, Macquarie University

"[Bharucha’s] text overall as well as major geopolitical developments since its publication in spring 2014 suggest a far more conflicting temporality of deferment, suspended between a ‘justice to come’ and a ‘terror-in-waiting.’" – Professor Markus Wessendorf, University of Hawaii