politics of fear

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Fear is an emotion and the processes of generation of fear, either ‘imagined’ or ‘real’ fear, are context and time contingent, often shaped by the specificity of places in which the events take place. Fear can be constructed and politicized in particular ways around certain groups, and widely used to serve certain political interests, for example in relation to ethnic, sectarian, or marginalized communities. Thus fear may come to control certain political discourses. Fear can be generated from terror and consent can be won through fear (through beatings, disappearances, forceful abductions). Consequently, people can come to live in a ‘chronic’ state of fear. There is a dialectical relationship between silence and fear. Fear engenders both silence and secrecy. Though silence can operate as a survival strategy, yet silencing is a powerful mechanism of control enforced through fear. Silence can also create more fear and uncertainty. People choose to remain silent because they are aware that talking could lead to repercussions and recriminations. Fear is not only a subjective experience but can be collectively experienced by communities. Geographical concentrations of fear can draw a wedge between communities as fear arises from distrust of strangers but also of each other. Fear feeds on the imagination and may be spread through rumour, myths, and stereotypes.

Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert


Subjects: Politics.

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