October 11, 2004
New Shock and Awe book explores
political meaning of words through essays, photographs, and
By Scott Rappaport
Democracy, patriotism, family
these are words spoken with overwhelming
fervor these days in the aftermath of 9/11, the invasion of
Iraq, and the anticipation of the upcoming presidential election.
But what do those words really mean? Apparently, different
things, depending on your political affiliation.
Shock and Awe: War on Words, explores the political
meaning of words through essays, photographs, poems, and drawings
by nearly 80 scholars, artists, and poets from UCSC and around
the world. Created by the campuss Institute for Advanced
Feminist Research (IAFR), it is the first book to be published
by New Pacific Press, a new venture recently begun by David
Watson, owner of The Literary Guillotine bookstore in downtown
The book is an effort to reclaim language thats
been debased in the politics of the war on terror,
explained IAFR director Helene Moglen, who holds a UC Presidential
Chair in Literature at UCSC. The political rhetoric of
the present moment makes many of us feel that were strangers
in our own language. And there are key wordswords that
feel to us particularly weightedwhich when they are misused,
make us feel disempowered as speakers and as writers.
For example, in her piece about the use of the term security,
New York University professor Mary Louise Pratt points out:
Talking about security is one of the most effective ways
to cause fear. Its effective because youre not talking
about fear, youre assuming its there, or should
be. In a similar vein, author Kath Westin describes the
word on as a preposition designed to keep
people in thrall to the things they love to think they hate.
See War on Terror. See War on Poverty. See War on Drugs.
Coeditor and UCSC anthropology professor Anna Tsing gets to
the heart of the matter in her essay on Glory, when
she quotes Lewis Carrolls Through the Looking Glass:
When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty
said in a rather scornful tone, it means just what I choose
it to meanneither more nor less.
The idea for the book grew out of the activities of an IAFR
working group titled Feminisms and Global War. Moglen noted
that there was a tremendous response from people invited to
contribute to the project.
It struck a very resonant chord, said Moglen. Words
and values that are important to us can feel like they are being
strangled or turned inside out. And the language becomes so
debased we become tongue-tied. We all know that feeling of going
to another country and feeling marginalizedhaving that
feeling of strangeness verbally. So, its very moving for
people to have the opportunity to take language back, instead
of feeling like outsiders who dont have a right to that
Watson said that the 200-page, soft-cover, small-format book
is now being shipped to bookstores throughout the United States
and Canada, and may also be ordered online at abebooks.com.
Both he and Moglen noted that the volume is targeted to a general
audience and is not an academic book.
We made a strong effort to make this book accessible
to everyone, said Moglen.
Shock and Awe contains contributions by more than 20
UCSC professors and grad students and is coedited by anthropology
professor Anna Tsing, associate history of art professor Jennifer
Gonzalez, and graduate students Bregje van Eekelen and Bettina
Stotzer. Local contributors will read selections at a Book Party
on Wednesday, October 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the UCSC Womens
Center. Admission is free, the public is invited, and refreshments
will be served. For more information, contact the Institute
for Advanced Feminist Research at: (831) 459-3882 or visit:
Return to Front Page