Reclaiming the social body through self-directed violence: Seeking anthropological understanding of Suicide attacks (Respond to this article at



Suicide bombings receive tremendous attention in the media and are a central aspect of the Western public's imagination of terrorism, yet anthropology has remained relatively silent in debates around this form of violence. Drawing on constructs central to anthropology, namely embodiment and agency, I suggest that when political and structural violence threatens the body and thus the identity of both individual and group, this force can be ultimately rejected and the body can be ‘reclaimed’ through self-directed violence. In trying to explain the horror that this act generates in the West the article introduces a new element central to anthropology - namely pollution - that has not previously been examined in discourse around suicide bombing. This is a theoretical piece that tries to problematize the role of the body, as a physical entity central to this ‘act’ and offers some questions and potential hypotheses for further research.