European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 343–360

Can We Laugh Yet? Reading Post-9/11 Counterterrorism Policy as Magical Realism and Opening a Third-Space of Resistance



The War on Terror has demanded the acceptance of ridiculous propositions. But is it funny—can we laugh at such a destructive endeavour? Considering this, the paper reads the War on Terror as a text of magical realism—a literary genre which utilises juxtapositions between the fantastic supernatural and the modern rationalist paradigm. Thinking about the War on Terror as a magical realist text allows us to engage with the fantasy (and humour) of counter-radicalisation policies which require us to believe in ideological contagion and witchcraft-like possession, and the extension of ever-more technologically sophisticated risk-management algorithms which draw upon and necessitate a fear of a coming apocalypse to function. Similar clashes of paradigm are used within magical realist literature to contest the supposedly secure boundaries of rationalism, and to open a place that Homi Bhabha calls ‘third space’ through the creative potential of juxtaposition. In reading the War on Terror as a magical realist text, the paper argues that contemporary security policy narrates its own third space—one that can be extremely funny in the juxtapositions it employs. The War on Terror undermines itself by narrating a liminal space where its claims of security appear ridiculous. Drawing on the thought of Luce Irigaray, the paper argues that this space of laughter is not only useful for resisting the practices of the War on Terror, but also that a failure to laugh consolidates the War on Terror discourse and the joke it is playing on us by taking it seriously.


Counter-terrorism Drones Magical realism Radicalisation UK prevent strategy War on terror 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Fellow, Politics and International StudiesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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