Terrorism in movies, literature, and the media

Thursday June 20, 11.15 - 12.45

Session 1, Auditorium 2, Eilert Sundt building

Chair: Karoline Ihlebæk

Paper presenters

  • Anne Gjelsvik: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Comparing the Cinematic Treatments of the 22nd of July
  • Mads Outzen: Witnessing the witnessing: The potential role of cinema in resiliency after terror attacks
  • Gordon Clubb: How the Media represents the effectiveness of de-radicalization in the UK, Australia, Nigeria and Singapore
  • Ingvild Folkvord: Framing facts, making sense of terror: the case of ‘22nd of July literature’ in Norway


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Comparing the Cinematic Treatments of the 22nd of July

Anne Gjelsvik, Department of Art and Media Studies, NTNU, Norway

In 2018, over the course of only eight months, three different movies about the terrorist attacks that happened in Norway on the 22nd of July 2011 were released: The Norwegian feature film Utøya - July 22 (Erik Poppe), the Swedish documentary Reconstructing Utøya (Carl Javér), and the Netflix-produced 22 July (Paul Greengrass). Making movies about these terrible events has been controversial, and this paper will accordingly take as its starting point the reception of the works. It will discuss differences in how the three films have been received compared to each other, as well as differences between the Norwegian and the international reception.

            I will argue that although the films are all treatments of the same events, they do and achieve almost entirely different things. Through a comparison of them, I will discuss how cinema can work as a medium for re-telling, experiencing and healing the damage caused by terror events. In my analyses of the films, I will focus on three topics in particular: the role of time and space in cinema, the relationship between individual (un-mediated) and collective/cultural (mediated) memories of traumatic events (Helge Jordheim; Jan and Aleida Assman), and the importance of collective cinematic experiences (Julian Hanich).

«Witnessing the witnessing: The potential role of cinema in resiliency after terror attacks»

Mads Outzen, Department of Art and Media Studies, NTNU, Norway

In the world today, terrorism is primarily a mediated phenomenon. The proliferation of images and video – in particular – of the acts themselves, perpetrators, victims, survivors, as well as witnesses, illustrate and inform our knowledge and understanding of the events, thus carrying the potential to profoundly affect spectatorial perception and experience of terrorism. However, it could be argued that imagery of terrorism is too visible in contemporary media landscape, in any case underlining the importance of considering the kinds of visibility afforded to terrorism in the media.

Last year saw the release of three different films about the Norwegian terror attacks in 2011, with several more productions coming in the next years. What are we as film scholars to make of these cinematic treatments: what value and significance do they have, and what does it entail to watch them as spectators? Taking the film documentary film Reconstructing Utøya (Carl Javér, 2018) as a main case, this paper traces how its audiovisual testimonial material allows for a particular form of “witnessing the witnessing”, exploring the ethical implications of this relationship and the potentially significant role of cinematic images in enhancing understanding of the consequences of terrorism, even facilitating processes of resiliency work.

How the Media Represents the Effectiveness of De-Radicalization in the UK, Australia, Nigeria, and Singapore

Gordon Clubb, Ryan O’Connor, Edward Barnes, University of Leeds, UK

Much research on de-radicalization has focused on the question of whether de-radicalization programmes are effective and how success can be measured. However, there has been little research on how de-radicalization programmes, and the concept of de-radicalization itself, are represented in the media. Media framing of de-radicalization is important because the perception of success, effectiveness, and importance among the public and the media can help programmes to actually be successful through greater political support in terms of time and resources, greater inter-agency cooperation, and through reduced barriers to re-integration which can facilitate successful disengagement and de-radicalization. To capture how the media frames de-radicalization, a content analysis of two newspapers in the UK, Australia, Nigeria and Singapore is conducted, codifying the positive and negative references to de-radicalization over ten years.

A qualitative analysis of the sub-themes provides insights into how programmes are perceived and how and why they are presented as un/successful. The findings to an extent corroborate Neumann’s claim that de-radicalization is likely to be less popular in Western states – the framing of de-radicalization in Nigeria and Singapore is significantly more positive, underplaying criticisms of these programmes, however we find that at least in the UK the media framing of de-radicalization is mixed, rather than hostile, to such programmes. The paper argues that the term de-radicalization and the active framing of policies is important at the programme level, providing a justification for programmes to emphasise public relations as a part of their activities. 

Framing facts, making sense of terror: the case of ‘22nd of July literature’ in Norway

Ingvild Folkvord, Dept. of Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Aesthetics and literature have something to say about the very production of facts (Tygstrup and Holm 2012). This also holds true in the case of facts concerning terrorism. This paper will focus on a category, that of ‘22nd of July literature’ which emerged after the Oslo and Utøya attacks of 2011. My aim is to show that one cannot simply rely on ‘facts as they happened’, for what needs to be grasped at the same time, are the social frames through which such events have been collectively shaped and understood so that they can be recognized as facts.

In the case of the 22nd of July, I will argue that it is necessary to study the gradual reconfiguration of what was first beyond thinking, through a complex process where fiction is part and parcel of the very understanding of the events (Koschorke 2012). I will focus on three examples (a radio essay, a poem and a novel) and show that objective facts only become objective in a community when meaning is shared through various aesthetic frames usually described as genres. Objectivity is therefore the result of a process and so are the data we tend to take as face value first.

Published Apr. 23, 2019 1:21 PM - Last modified June 12, 2019 10:44 AM