Viral Imperialism

Claire Chambers in Dawn:

I’ve been reading Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb’s ambitious debut monograph, Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion and Terror 1817–2020. In it, the Pakistani-American scholar ranges over 200 years of history to argue that the West has long used the language of disease centrally in its methods of control.

What inspires Kolb’s thesis is Susan Sontag’s argument from Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors about a pervasive and dangerous entanglement of war imagery and medical diction. According to the renowned American critic, similes and metaphors, signs and signifiers act as misleading bridges between wars and pandemics.

Kolb extends Sontag’s ideas to talk about the way in which terror and insurgency are widely positioned as a “viruslike” epidemic. Such imagery of contagion has, she submits, been the defining trope of Islamophobic discourse among imperialists from the 1857 Indian Rebellion onwards.

More here.