Bhayanak Rasas: The War on “Terror”

Is the United States really fighting a war against an emotion? And if so, are we winning? Will we be freed from fear? Is fear what we’re killing when we drop bombs from unmanned drones into Pakistan and Afghanistan? Traditional Indian rasa theory has helped me think about the iconography of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). These paintings ask how images of terrorists and those fighting against terror make us believe in this rhetorical framing of our wars. How can we think beyond the iconic mugshots of alleged terrorists and suicide bombers, photographs of the destruction of the Twin Towers, the depravity of Abu Ghraib, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, missions accomplished, Barney Cam and White House Holiday festivities? In these paintings, I’ve used as models lesser seen photographs of the actors in this war.

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