- Lovecidal: Walking with the Disappeared by Trinh T. Minh-ha
Lovecidal: Walking with the Disappeared. By Trinh T. Minh-ha. Fordham University Press, 2016; 298 pp.; illustrations. $100.00 cloth, $28.00 paper, e-book available.
Filmmaker, theorist, and composer Trinh T. Minh-ha's most recent genre-defying book, Lovecidal: Walking with the Disappeared, is critical theory, creative offering, and philosophical reflection on the essential "dis-ease" (Trinh 1989) characterizing contemporary global victory-hungry regimes of militarism, and the possibilities of loving forms of dissent within. Following conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq, Palestine, Rwanda, Tibet, Vietnam, and elsewhere, Trinh shows that on today's "screen of events," what is relevant is for war itself to remain in a state of ever- "pending ending" (47). As a radical retelling of the war story, Lovecidal: Walking with the Disappeared presents itself as a "resonance event" (4)—tracking the ways in which war wounds reverberate, resound, and tremble across time and geographies, materially affecting our quotidian rhythms (7). Trinh posits the figures of the walker and the writer as receptors of the pulsations of war events. Therefore, she urges bodily-kinesthetic attention to the "propulsive generosity" of the walker—a Mother of the Plaza de Mayo, a climate justice activist, a water protector, a Movement for Black Lives protestor (118). Walking in answer to the "call of the Disappeared" opens up an alternate spatio-temporality for political action. Relatedly, Trinh suggests that when a writer moves through the world with her sensory apparatus reawakened, these same rhythms may disrupt mental categories and create new assemblages of words, unsettling the war propaganda machine's attempts to evacuate meaning from language (63).
As in Trinh's other works, her striking methodology expands the possibilities of what scholarship in the humanities may look like. Bringing together voices from critical and feminist theory, mainstream media, poetry, Zen Buddhist practice, mythology, oral tradition, and aphorisms, Lovecidal presents a form of multivocal decolonial praxis that readers familiar with her body of work will recognize. The book also features art photography by Jean Paul Bourdier. Multiple black-and-white images capture human bodies with, in, near, and against varied natural landscapes, playing with illusion and actuality, camouflage and mimicry, light and shadow, so as to perform Trinh's conceptual offering of "inter-possibility," a zone of "between states" in which liberatory praxis may be located, both aesthetically and politically (80).
Composed of 18 chapters or "creative fragments," Lovecidal makes at least four critical moves. First, the reader encounters Trinh's carefully researched critique of contemporary war forms, with a focus on the flawed logics of a US regime that will never accept "anything else than complete victory" (72). "Victory" is exposed as an enduring and infelicitous speech act in these pages, with each new US war raising the specter of Vietnam (35). In scene after scene of apparent military victory, Trinh indicates how each such proclamation is exceedingly short-lived, Afghanistan being a case in point where a "revived for replay" war continues (126). Further, to sustain the Manichean logics of the current US dispensation, the war mouthpiece redefines victory at each turn. Trinh notes that the line separating victory and loss is strategically blurred or rearranged, so that we witness war unfolding between "victor and victor" (91). An especially acute example of this was in the first Gulf War, when a moment of broadcast television showed both Saddam Hussein and George H.W. Bush claiming victory for their side at the time of the ceasefire. In fragments titled "Enhanced Security: He Won," "Screen Replay," and "Deep in the Red," Trinh maps the landscape of affect (alongside material violence) that is activated by counterinsurgency, surveillance, and security measures, both domestically and abroad, in the name of victory over the enemy. Finally, if the staging of victory privileges spectacular visuality, Trinh draws our attention to the "nocturnal gestures" of war (31). For instance, [End Page 165] she describes how the US withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2010...