Bloody Translations: The Politics of International Compassion and Horror

Narendran Kumarakulasingam


We live in a world where machetes and meat cleavers are considered savage and horrific, while atom bombs and drone strikes are deemed to be civilized, legitimate, or acceptable methods of waging large-scale violence. How is this possible? This essay engages this distinction by tracing the ways in which what is deemed normative violence is narrated and theorized by, for, and in the ‘West.’ I hone in on specific instances and moments within larger contexts of violence such as World War II, The Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror, and follow Muppidi (2012) in asking what translation practices enable the reading of various kinds of bodily injury as progressive, civilized, or legitimate. Doing so enables me to show the important role that the racialization of affect plays in the production of this distinction.

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