From the Depths of Despair: Performance, Counterperformance, and “September 11”
Article first published online: 18 FEB 2004
Volume 22, Issue 1, pages 88–105, March 2004
How to Cite
Alexander, J. C. (2004), From the Depths of Despair: Performance, Counterperformance, and “September 11”. Sociological Theory, 22: 88–105. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2004.00205.x
- Issue published online: 18 FEB 2004
- Article first published online: 18 FEB 2004
After introducing a perspective on terrorism as postpolitical and after establishing the criteria for success that are immanent in this form of antipolitical action, this essay interprets September 11, 2001, and its aftermath inside a cultural-sociological perspective. After introducing a macro-model of social performance that combines structural and semiotic with pragmatic and power-oriented dimensions, I show how the terrorist attack on New York City and the counterattacks that immediately occurred in response can be viewed as an iteration of the performance/counterperformance dialectic that began decades, indeed centuries, ago in terms of the relation of Western expansion and Arab-Muslim reaction. I pay careful attention to the manner in which the counterperformance of New Yorkers and Americans develops an idealized, liminal alternative that inspired self-defense and outrage, leading to exactly the opposite performance results from those the al-Qaeda terrorists had intended.