The importance of 9/11 remembrance - 20 years on

Professor Brad Evans has co-ordinated a special edition for the LA Review of Books to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this Saturday.

  • Last updated on Monday 13 September 2021

Expert in political Violence, Professor Brad Evans of the University of Bath, has coordinated a special edition for the LA Review of Books to mark the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Professor Evans , whose work specialises on political violence, has written extensively about 9/11 in the past.

Writing in this latest edition, he comments: ’Some days can feel altogether irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Others are so momentous, so tragic, they open a wound in time so powerful they appear to steer history in a different direction. Or so it seems. September 11 is such a date. As many across the world watched in horror as the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City unfolded, we were left in no doubt that a tremendous force was being unleashed, whose impacts would be felt for decades to come. Violence would beget violence. And the terror just the beginning.

’While the recent violence in Afghanistan has now shifted the discussion somewhat, what also unsettled me as we started approaching the 20th anniversary was how very few people were talking about 9/11 anymore. Indeed, even if it is talked about today, especially by politicians, it is rather neatly consigned to a moment when justice needed to be served. Had we simply forgotten about that day? How could those images (which many felt would be forever with us) simply become yet another brutal day into the annals of human suffering? Had we normalized the terror so much it was no longer even questioned? Were we perhaps now so attuned to images of violence they no longer impacted the way they should? Or had we simply exhausted everything there was to say on the subject, including how to escape from the violence itself?

’In the years that followed the violence of 9/11, like many I was fixated on the spectacle of its occurrence. But I now see I should have given just as much attention to the absences - the disappearance of life and bodies that would never be recovered, the disappearance of the towers and the invisible scarring of wounded skies, the disappearance of alternatives as we carried out war as usual, and the disappearance of optimism as the world found meaning in vengeance and hate.

’As the memory of 9/11 fades, we need to hold on to the exceptionality of things. This needs to happen, so we remember what is unique about each and every atrocity. We don’t gain anything by flattening history. Nor do we gain anything by invoking hierarchies of suffering. Instead, what we need is a conversation which speaks across multiple terrains and is as open to the past as it is to the future.’

'When the Towers Fell' will be published in The Los Angeles Review of Books on September 11th 2021. It will feature reflections from 26 leading critical thinkers and artists, including Gayatri Spivak, Vincent Brown, Jake Chapman, Martha Rosler, Samuel Moyn and many others.


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