What is it that leaves us shell shocked in the face of the massacres carried out in New York on 9/11 or in Paris on 13 November 2015? How are we to explain the intensity of the reaction to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo? Answering these questions involves trying to understand what a society goes through when it is subjected to the ordeal of terrorist attacks. And it impels us to try to explain why millions of people feel so concerned and shaken by them, even when they do not have a direct connection with any of the victims.
In Shell Shocked, sociologist Gérôme Truc sheds new light on these events, returning to the ways in which ordinary individuals lived through and responded to the attacks of 9/11, of 11 March 2004 in Madrid and 7 July 2005 in London. Analysing political language and media images, demonstrations of solidarity and minutes of silence, as well as the tens of thousands of messages addressed to the victims, his investigation brings about the complexity of our feelings about the Islamists′ attacks. It also uncovers the sources of the solidarity that, in our individualistic societies, ultimately finds expression in the first person singular rather than the first person plural: ′I am Charlie′, ′I am Paris.′
This timely and path–breaking book will appeal to students and scholars in sociology and politics and to anyone interested in understanding the impact of terrorism in contemporary societies.
Introduction: Terrorist attacks as a test
Part I: What is happening to us
Chapter 1: Under attack
9/11 live: accident, terrorist attack, or act of war?
The view from Europe: from Western solidarity to a cosmopolitan perspective
Chapter 2: Experiencing your ‘own’ 9/11
11 March attacks like a ‘new 9/11’
7 July 2005, a ‘British 9/11?
Chapter 3: To show, or not to show, violence
The place of the dead
The ethics of iconographic decisions
Chapter 4: Demonstrating solidarity
The attacks as a ‘time to demonstrate’
Why demonstrate after an attack?
Chapter 5: Observing silence
A ritual of collective mourning
A problem of moral equivalence
Part II: What touches us
Chapter 6: Terrorist attacks and their publics
From written reactions to the concerned publics
In what capacity an attack concerns us
Chapter 7: The meanings of ‘we’
Above and below the level of the nation
World cities and the test of terrorism
Chapter 8: The values at stake
Reactions to terrorist attacks as value judgments
The banal pacifism of the Europeans
Chapter 9: The attacks in persons
The singularization of the victims
Reacting as a singular person
Chapter 10: Solidarity in the singular
The attachment to place
The coincidence of dates
The homology of experiences
Conclusion: ‘There’s something of Charlie in all of us’
"Truc′s hermeneutic powers are extraordinary. He reveals the post–hoc framing process that transformed 9/11 from an event into a structure in the American and European collective consciousness. For example, he relates the immediate attribution of the "war" frame to deep collective memories in the U.S. about Pearl Harbor, and he relativizes European understandings of subsequent terrorist events in the same way, demonstrating that they are interpretations based on analogical reasoning rather than explanations based on real experience. This book deserves to be read and discussed widely."
Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University