This article attempts to explain the appeal of "terror" in the French Revolution by examining the history of the concept of terror. It focuses on historiographical representations of sovereign powers, whether monarchs or nations, as "terrors" of their enemies. It argues that the term typically connoted majesty, glory, justice and hence legitimacy. Moreover, historiographical depictions of past rulers and nations frequently emphasized the transiency of terror as an attribute of power; they dramatized decline in formulations such as "once terrible." For the revolutionaries, terror therefore provided a means of legitimation, but one that always had to be guarded and reinforced.
Reflections on a Trope in Eighteenth-Century Historiography
The Legality, Ethics and Effectiveness of Targeting Terrorists
In the ongoing war on terror both the American and Israeli governments have resorted to a policy of ‘targeting terrorists’. In essence, both governments authorize their military or intelligence services to kill specific ‘terrorists’ who they believe mortally threaten citizens and cannot otherwise be neutralized. President Bush calls this ‘sudden justice’ and the Israeli government ‘targeted killing’ but their critics speak of ‘assassination’, ‘liquidation’ or ‘extra-judicial killing’. Since 11 September 2001, America is reported to have killed at least 44 people without warning or trial under the guidance of this policy, at least 18 of whom were civilians; the Israelis have killed at least 348, including 120 unintended targets (B’tselem 2006; Byman 2006b; Meyer 2006).
It is one of Sartre's greatest strengths that his declared aim was 'to write for his own time'. From the 1940s onward, he became ever less interested in 'timeless' questions, and ever more concerned to explore the concrete realities of his own age. This engagement with the contemporary makes it particularly tempting to consider what Sartre's responses to the events of our own age would be. Ever since his death in 1980, those of us who have drawn insight and inspiration from Sartre's works have tended to ask how Sartre might have judged particular political developments. And because of the central place given to violence in his thought, as well as his detailed reflections on the Second World War and the wars in Algeria and Vietnam, it is only natural to ask how Sartre would have responded to the appalling events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent 'war on terror'.
This article argues that the term “holy” (saint/sainte) was a key word in the French revolutionary lexicon during the Terror. Its use was comparable in frequency to the terms “glorious” and “useful”. Among the many things revolutionaries regarded as “holy”—for example, liberty, equality, the constitution, the laws, and the revolution itself—by far the most often cited was the “Mountain”. Historians have assumed that “Montagne” simply referred to the deputies who occupied the upper benches in the National Convention, but an analysis of the term “holy Mountain” shows that the real significance of the name came from its analogy to Mount Sinai. Revolutionaries venerated the Mountain as a source of divine laws and as a force with the godlike capacity to punish “impious” enemies. The concept indicates an authentic religiosity among the revolutionaries, who are otherwise seen as heirs to the Enlightenment, and therefore questions the traditional opposition between Enlightenment and religion.
Symptoms, Sensations, Feelings
Through the fascinating late sixteenth-century legal battle over the inheritance of the Florentine nobleman Giovambattista di Bindaccio Ricasoli Baroni, in which the young Galileo Galilei appeared as a key witness, this article reflects on two key categories of emotion of the era: melancholy and terror (specifically, fear of death). In analyzing these emotions, which hounded the unfortunate Ricasoli throughout his life, the article shows that, far from being the private sentiments of a single pathological individual, these emotions reflected the mood of people living in an era when the shadow of the oppression of arbitrary power in this world and of the possibility of eternal suffering in the next were particularly salient. Moreover, seemingly perennial emotions like sadness or the fear of death or shame, far from being unchanging, can take different and unpredictable configurations in a precise historical context, based on impulses and conflicts related to the power relations and the mental patrimony of that society.
Robert L. Paquette
Most historians, even specialists in the field of slavery, know little about the largest and bloodiest slave insurrection in United States history. The revolt broke out in a sugar-producing region in the Territory of Orleans in 1811, one year before Louisiana's statehood. A disciplined army of rebels composed of men and women, African-born slaves and creole slaves, mulattoes and blacks, skilled slaves and field hands, marched down the east bank of the Mississippi River in quickstep toward New Orleans. Stunned eyewitnesses observe slaves in military formation with drums beating and flags waving. At least some of the leaders of the revolt were uniformed, mounted on horseback, and wielded rearms. Charles, a mulatto slave driver allegedly from Saint-Domingue (Haiti), led the uprising. The 1811 insurrection raises big questions about the causes and content of slave rebellion. Why did the insurrection break out when and where it did? How were slaves of different types from different plantations mobilized to revolt? Was the Louisiana insurrection influenced by the slave revolution in Saint-Domingue? Or were the causes of the revolt local? Why did free-people of color assist whites in suppressing the movement? What were the goals of the rebels? Summary justice led to the grisly executions and mutilations of scores of slaves. Did torture and terror have the desired results for the master class?
Jeffrey A. Sluka
The ethnography of state terror is “high risk” research and there are real personal dangers for anyone who conducts fieldwork on this issue. Managing such dangers has particularly become an issue for those conducting primary research with perpetrators of state terror—the “rank and file” who apply the electric cattle prods and pull the triggers—and all of the researchers I know who have taken this path have been threatened in one form or another. Th is article reviews the core literature and latest developments in managing the physical dangers inherent in the ethnography of political violence and state terror, particularly fieldwork or primary research with the actual perpetrators themselves, makes practical recommendations for managing such dangers, and presents some ideas for developing risk management plans or protocols for researcher survival in perilous field sites.
The Case of Northern Ireland
This article examines the concept of violence in contemporary political theory focusing in particular on the possibility of rethinking the relationship between violence and democracy. Rather than seeing democracy and violence as contrasting concepts, it argues that democratic societies have always been founded on the basis of violent engagement at some level. And, of course, the modern state has always claimed the legitimate use of force as a key ingredient in its authority. The article contends that many contemporary democratic discourses have lost sight of the integral relationship between democracy and violence. Indeed it is frequently the case that discourses of democracy are couched in ethical terms as the obverse of violence. Ironically, this trend is often most apparent where societies are either making a transition to democracy or where a process of conflict transformation is taking place. The limitations of these approaches for our understanding of violence and democracy will be outlined in this article through an examination of contemporary political developments in Northern Ireland.
U.S. Foreign Policy and the U.S. Self
Robin W. Cameron
Why is it that one feels as though they have to say that 9/11 was a ‘tragic’, ‘terrible’ or ‘horrific’ event? Why is this inclination intensified if one seeks to comment critically on U.S. politics? Is it not clear that death on that scale and in that manner is without exception horrific, terrible and tragic? Or, is it that as a critical scholar I feel compelled to clarify that I am not with the terrorists simply because I intend to critique aspects of U.S. foreign policy? The point of this is not to argue that one should stop referring to 9/11 as ‘horrific’, ‘terrible’ or ‘tragic’, but rather to examine what causes individuals to monitor the way in which they act when they engage with a powerful foreign policy consensus.
This article analyzes the Gulag memoirs of four women political prisoners—Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, Liudmila Miklashevskaya, Nadezhda Joffe, and Valentina Grigorievna levleva-Pavlenko—to examine the interplay of motherhood and survival. Each was a mother of small children sentenced to forced labor camps in the northern polar regions of the Soviet Union. Motherhood played a complex role in their survival. The rupture in family relations, particularly the separation from their children, magnified the psychological and emotional stress of their incarceration. Yet, being a mother in the camps provided a compelling motivation to stay alive. It helped them to sustain a sense of normalcy by connecting them to their former lives and to the family unit that represented stability and sustenance amid the bleakness of their Gulag existence.