“Witnessing Times of Terror.” Litro Magazine, February 2016.

maxresdefault-e1523027951422.jpgIn November last year, we were once more glued to smartphone screens, twittering aghast as masked men gunned down concert-goers and passersby in Paris. Experienced virtually at a safe distance, yet in life-time, the video footage of the massacre engulfed innumerable witnesses in the emotional shock of watching others on the brink of death. For many non-Westerners exposed to the threat of such violence on a daily basis, be it in Iraq, Syria or Nigeria, allowing oneself to be affected in this way might seem almost a privilege. And of course, this is not a new phenomenon. The paradigmatic event that disseminated individual pain to a global audience were the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Whether you subscribe to the view that this can engender a new type of digital cosmopolitanism, working towards transnational empathy, or regard this as the worst-case scenario of virtual voyeurism – fact is that this mode of perception is intrinsically linked to our times. However, what does the feeling of “being present” in a digitized world actually mean for our position in time and space? And how does it affect our empathy with the victims? In the end, what is called for are new enquiries into witnessing terror that make sense of these processes of grief and mourning, but also uncover any patterns of power and discursive domination in the grass-roots echochamber of the web.

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