From Baghdad to Belgrade : phantasmagoric places of war
New technologies have ushered in new electronic mediations of battle. Wars are not only fought or ‘managed’ from considerable distances but they are also witnessed at a distance in real-time by global audiences. It is as Paul Virilio argues, “the history of battle is primarily the history of radically changing fields of perception” (1989:7). The very means of waging as well as watching war were transformed with the advent of the 1991 Gulf War and again in 1999 with the war over Kosovo.
This paper addresses the significance of Baghdad and Belgrade (both of great historical significance as capital cities and home of their respective presidents) as mediated sites of war. Through a focus on the role of the rhetorical, visual and spatial construction of these cities via the electronic media I examine the profound symbolic and real effects this had on the waging of war itself and the ‘collective memory’ of war.
Anthony Giddens (1989: 18-19) argues that under conditions of modernity the ‘emptying of time’ and the ‘emptying of space”’ results in place becoming increasingly ‘phantasmagoric’ (increasingly effected by distant influences). I extend this idea to focus on the collective perception of place, that is to say the intervention or at least the mediation of different levels and modes of perception directly shape, in a significant way, the ‘visible’ form of the locale.
N/A College of Communication, Marquette University