Wound, injury, and restoration: Bollywood's formations of global terror

Jigna Desai, Rani Neutill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The discourse of exceptional crisis and unparalleled injury has made '9/11' a globally recognized invocation and sanctioning of the security state's violent imperial and domestic expansion and retaliation. Media representations themselves have come under scrutiny for their role in saturating our imaginaries with spectacles of American suffering with much less attention being paid to other more deadly occurrences (e.g. conflict in Darfur). Both narrative and images attempt to establish 9/11 as the beginning of a new global history that stretches outward from the United States and incorporates other global cities2 - Bali, Mumbai, London and Madrid - into this history. National and international media located the 11/26 attacks on Mumbai as India's own 9/11. The bombings, subsequent occupation of the city, and hostage crisis were figured as predicated by 9/11, demarcating a historical teleology of terror that originated in New York and lead to Mumbai. New York, the original site of attack in this narrative, is the centre of civilization, finance and democracy; and the various attacks on Mumbai demonstrate how the threat of Islamic terror is spreading to the free world and other democracies, a narrative that promulgates an Orientalist and imperial discourse of Islamic violence and terror. A recent subgenre in popular Hindi cinema has adapted and adopted a similar narrative of exceptional injury. In a twist, recent Hindi films (2005-present) that deal with 9/11 and the Mumbai bombings have a different exigency, a shifted narrative that locates 9/11 within a larger frame of global Islamic violence, one where New York is not the origin, but where India precedes New York in injury. The affective and political shift we trace here is one where earlier cinematic narrative and images first concentrate on a history inscribed by loss - the 1947 Partition of India into India and Pakistan as a site of mourning, to films that deal with other conflicts and therefore other ways of politically and psychically understanding histories of inflicted and perpetrated violence as well as justification for the perpetration of violence. Most importantly, we suggest that films within the subgenre do not simply call for the expansion of the global security state, but can instead imagine other ethical responses. We identify one such response as postcolonial restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-165
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in South Asian Film and Media
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Bollywood
  • Film
  • Mumbai
  • Muslim
  • Postcolonial restoration
  • Terror
  • Trauma


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