A Shadow Underneath: The Secret History of Paranoia, Borders and Terrorism in Postwar American Literature and Film
AuthorCobb, Sean Daren
Committee ChairWhite, Susan
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract"The Secret History of Paranoia, Borders and Terrorism in American Postwar Literature and Film" explores the historical re-articulations of paranoia around the problems of borders and terrorism. The introduction discusses the first English definition of "paranoia" in 1811 - "alienation of mind" and "defect in judgment" - by comparing this definition to other early psychological taxonomies of paranoia and arguing that "paranoia" is a border concept. The first chapter analyzes U.S. postwar nationalism, border paranoia and fears of collapsing nation-state sovereignty in Anthony Mann's 1949 film Border Incident, a semi-documentary film noir focusing on illegal bracero smuggling in Imperial Valley, California. The second chapter analyzes Paco Ignacio Taibo's border detective fiction, specifically Frontera Dreams, Leonardo's Bicycle and Life Itself, as an allegory for postmodern identity. The third chapter analyzes the novel and film Flashpoint, a story about two border patrol agents who find a buried skeleton at the border that they discover later is J.F.K.'s assassin, arguing that the J.F.K. conspiracy substitutes for and, ultimately, replaces the actual conspiracy of border corruption and the illegal exploitation of immigrant workers. The fourth and final chapter situates Don DeLillo's fiction, the film and novel Children of Men and Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer and States of Exception within the fall of Cold War nation states and borders, charting the rise of terrorism as a permanent "state of exception" and as the dark side of globalization, modernization and secular society.