Insurgent Aesthetics

Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War

Insurgent Aesthetics

Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 93 illustrations, incl. 26 color Published: October 2019

Art and Visual Culture, Critical Ethnic Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

In Insurgent Aesthetics Ronak K. Kapadia theorizes the world-making power of contemporary art responses to US militarism in the Greater Middle East. He traces how new forms of remote killing, torture, confinement, and surveillance have created a distinctive post-9/11 infrastructure of racialized state violence. Linking these new forms of violence to the history of American imperialism and conquest, Kapadia shows how Arab, Muslim, and South Asian diasporic multimedia artists force a reckoning with the US war on terror's violent destruction and its impacts on immigrant and refugee communities. Drawing on an eclectic range of visual, installation, and performance works, Kapadia reveals queer feminist decolonial critiques of the US security state that visualize subjugated histories of US militarism and make palpable what he terms “the sensorial life of empire.” In this way, these artists forge new aesthetic and social alliances that sustain critical opposition to the global war machine and create alternative ways of knowing and feeling beyond the forever war.


“At its core, Insurgent Aesthetics reminds us that war and security are—despite the modern ideologies that would declare otherwise—fundamentally racialized social practices that seek to manage their violence in everyday life through controlling what can be felt and known. By looking at the ways diasporic communities interfere with sovereign and statist logics that conserve the knowledge of loss for the national community alone, this exquisitely written book powerfully argues for the insurgent abilities of culture to interrupt, deform, and repopulate our felt and known worlds in ways that force a reckoning and connection with the racialized death and detritus that US security at once creates and tries to disappear.” — Chandan Reddy, author of Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the U.S. State

“With its sharp interrogation of US warfare, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism, Insurgent Aesthetics introduces ‘queer calculus’ as an analytic that focuses on the racial violences of US empire and its forever war. By attending to the sensuous, and to the creative praxis and interventions of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian diasporic artists, Insurgent Aesthetics is a powerful, queer feminist study of life under US empire. Importantly, Ronak K. Kapadia demonstrates how insurgent strategies of solidarity and rebellion can trouble empire's methodologies and move us toward freedom.” — Simone Browne, author of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness

“ Insurgent Aesthetics is a theoretically-rich piece of cultural studies. … The book o?ers a powerful reading of art inspired by, and produced during, the post-9/11 era of US military aggression and colonization.” — Brian Donovan, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“There is much to be learned from Kapadia, whose ambitious monograph traffics between a profound appreciation for the ramifications of US imperialism, an eye for congruencies between divergent strains of comparative ethnic studies, and an enthusiasm for the critical talents of minoritarian cultural production.” — Eric Vazquez, Lateral


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ronak K. Kapadia is Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Sensuous Affiliations: Security, Terror, and the Queer Calculus of the Forever War  1
1. Up in the Air: US Aerial Power and the Visual Life of Empire in the Drone Age  44
2. On the Skin: Drone Warfare, Collateral Damage, and the Human Terrain  76
3. Empire's Innards: Conjuring "Warm Data" in the Archives of US Global Military Detention  103
4. Palestine(s) in the Sky: Visionary Aesthetics and Queer Cosmic Utopias from the Frontiers of US Empire  151
Epilogue. Scaling Empire: Insurgent Aesthetics n the Wilds of Imperial Decline  187
Notes  203
Bibliography  271
Index  321
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