Target Practices from the Cold War to the War(s) on Terror (March 26-29, 2015)

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Annual Meeting, American Comparative Literature Association
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In The Age of the World Target (2006) Rey Chow argues that we now live in an era in which “the target” is a key technological, geopolitical, and cultural figure. New technologies of targeting are emerging to reach global destinations with pinpoint precision; yet, errors result in accidental or unintentional targeting. “Being targeted” has become an everyday reality for many individuals and social groups: citizens are targets of national security states and mass Internet surveillance; “terrorists” (but also civilians) are targets of drone strikes; young individuals in U.S. cities are routinely targets of racial profiling by police. The overdetermined figure of the target reveals a sense of crisis on multiple fronts. It raises pressing questions about the relation between subjects and objects; the limits of the juridical; national identity and sovereignty; territoriality and deterritorialization; the relation between the human and technology; race and ethnicity; the relation between past and present technologies of targeting; and the nature of knowledge production under neoliberalism. This proposed seminar-style panel seeks to explore these and other questions in relation to an array of genres, methodologies, and media. We are interested in aggressive “target practices” that occur when America is at war, as well as in the "narratives of targeting" that produce, justify, and question those practices. We welcome global perspectives on the multi-directional dynamics of targeting but also seek studies of how the U.S. targets others in both domestic and foreign contexts. Given the relation between technologies and epistemologies of targeting and the emergence of comparative disciplines such as Area Studies, thinking the target enables reflection on “research as a practice of the imagination,” for the “areas” we study “are not facts but artifacts of our interests and our fantasies as well as our needs to know, to remember, and to forget” (Arjun Appadurai, “Grassroots Globalization”).

Contact: Melissa Stephens ( and Theo Finigan (

Suggested Topics:
• Targeting and optics
• Targeting technologies (e.g. drones, surveillance, satellites, social media)
• The ethics and legality of targeting (e.g. extrajudicial killings)
• Collateral damage
• The spatiality of the target (e.g. “drone geographies,” the “gunbelt”)
• Domestic targets (e.g. school shootings, “stop-and-frisk” tactics, undocumented immigrants, the new Jim Crow and imprisonment)
• Targeting as tactic of state power/empire
• The U.S. as target
• Rhetorics and narratives of targeting
• The bio-politics of targeting

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