Floating bombs encircling our shores: Post-9/11 rhetorics of piracy and terrorism

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This essay considers the relationship between piracy, terrorism, and post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy as it is outlined in the National Security Strategy of the United States (NSSUS). The NSSUS's discursive formation undertakes two noteworthy rhetorical maneuvers: It confuses piracy with terrorism, thereby shifting focus away from piracy as theft toward the threat of terrorism at sea, or "floating bombs," and it nationalizes terrorism, thereby making terrorists subject to retaliation by the U.S. military. Because post-9/11 distinctions between terrorists, those who pursue violence for political ends, and pirates, those who pursue violence for profiteering ends, have become increasingly difficult to substantiate in the American social imaginary, the collapse of these two categories signifies a final conflation of state power and economic power into one homogenizing, all-consuming force called empire. At the same time, piracy has become a formidable form of global capitalism sharing many characteristics with the doctrines enumerated by the NSSUS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-349
Number of pages24
JournalCultural Studies - Critical Methodologies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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