Cultural Hauntings: Narrating Trauma in Contemporary Films about the Iraq War

Katalina Kopka
Societies come to terms with the "unfinished business" of past wars through obsessive retellings of their traumatic histories (Bronfen 2012). Combat films therefore are a powerful cultural arena wherein collective memories are negotiated. While movies about twentieth-century wars have received much public attention as meaning-making cultural artefacts, Western academia has to date largely neglected films about a defining conflict of the twenty-first century: the Iraq War (2003-2011). This paper
more » ... 3-2011). This paper addresses how American and Iraqi films contribute to debates on war memory by depicting 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' as a harrowing and inconclusive conflict. Specifically, the article examines how Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (2008) and Mohamed Al-Daradji's Son of Babylon (Syn Babilonu, 2009) incorporate the rhythms of traumatic memory into their narrative fabric. Drawing on Derrida's concept of hauntology, I argue that the central structuring device of repetition compulsion creates complex trauma palimpsests which present war as a never-ending and ever-returning experience. Ultimately, this study's examination of the interdependencies between film narrative, trauma, human precariousness and empathy sheds a new light on Iraq's and America's intricately intertwined histories of violence.
doi:10.26262/exna.v1i2.6734 fatcat:5mqzp3hgovhd3drhu5wupz4fe4