Necroethics of Terrorism

Joseph Pugliese*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This essay is an attempt to begin to think through the complex interlacing of Levinasian ethics, violence, terror and war. The question driving this essay is: in the midst of the harrowing debris of body parts that followed the synchronised explosions of bombs in a number of London train carriages and a bus, what can possibly remain of the ethical? This question will be examined in the context of what remains unspeakable in the face of such acts of violence. Framed by the authorising rubric of declarations of law-as 'that which speaks in the language of legislation and promises certainty in the anxious aftermath of the loss of certainty', and the attendant concerns with the question of the 'enemy' (as clandestine operative of terror and as object of fantasies)-this essay seeks to examine the 'unspeakable remainder' of declarations of law, as that which unsettles (legislated) promises of certainty in the anxious aftermath of a terrorist explosion and its ongoing trauma. In the course of this essay, I proceed to think through the contentious relation between violence and ethics in the context of a Levinasian framework, arguing for a Levinas that challenges and unsettles pietistic views of his ethical philosophy. In deploying the neologism necroethics, I attempt to examine anachronic and necrological violence and its relation to the ethical injunction to own responsibility for the dead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-231
Number of pages19
JournalLaw and Critique
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


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