Post 9/11 Hermeneutics of Structural Silences

A Critical Study of Confessions of a Terrorist, The Unknown Terrorist and A Delicate Truth

  • Saira Batool
  • Saiyma Aslam Department of English, International Islamic University Islamabad


Since the fall of the twin towers and the hysterical obsession of the Western discourse centred on Muslim terrorists, the need to critically question and resist such discourses has become indispensable. This need is fulfilled by counter narratives on terrorism that tend to unveil the way dominant terrorism narratives are constructed and disseminated by the power structures. The current paper explores three such post 9/11 counter-narratives, namely Confessions of a Terrorist (2014) by Richard Jackson, The Unknown Terrorist (2008) by Richard Flanagan, and A Delicate Truth (2014) by John le Carre in terms of their resistance to the dominant rhetoric on terrorism. The resistance posed by these narratives is studied under the rubric of Critical Terrorism Studies and Ground Zero Fiction. Of the typology of Ground Zero Fiction proposed by Birgit Dawes, only Appropriative and Metonymic fiction find relevance here. The former delegates the emergence of “subaltern” alternative narratives by voicing the silenced while the latter connotes the employment of silence as a resistance strategy. Such strategic structural silences are studied in view of the typology proposed by Leona Toker. Since these silences are employed consciously in the counter-narratives to expose the workings of the dominant narratives, they serve to unveil, resist, and subvert aneo Orientalist discourse that portrays a one-sided picture of terrorism. The outcome of silences can be seen in the form of fictionality as they unveil the constructedness of the master narratives of terrorism thus disrupting their authority and forcing the readers to search for the truth by critically engaging with them. In brief, this article has explored the way selected counter-narratives deconstruct and pose resistance to the dominant terrorism narratives by unveiling the structures of misrepresentation.
Keywords: Ground Zero Fiction, silenced, strategic silence, resistance