The discussions will involve participation from individuals working in politics, theory, criticism, the arts, and journalism from both the West and the Middle East. A series of publications will be released during the course of the year.

On the organizational front, Under Fire looks at the forms of militarized agencies that are emerging today, including Western defense industries and decentralized terrorist organizations. It explores the forces that contribute to their emergence, whether operating at the level of economy, technology, politics, or ideology.

On the representational front, it looks at the ways that armed violence materializes as act and image, searching for new insight into its mechanisms and effects. In so doing, it engages issues of economy, embodiment, symbolic meaning, and affect.

The project delves into the economic underpinnings of contemporary armed conflict. It looks at the legacy of the “military-industrial complex,” the rise of the privatized military industry, and the repercussions of the commercialization of violence. However it does not simply prioritize economy. It looks at contemporary conflicts as driven by combinations of territorial, market, and ideological imperatives, and new attempts at the reconciliation of identity and universality. It looks to emergent processes of organization that operate on multiple levels of temporality and implicit form. Through this approach, the project aims to articulate emergent systems of decentralized control and new global dynamics of power. Building on historical conceptions of hegemony, it attempts to understand the nature of emergent power and the forms of resistance to it, situating cycles of violence within the modalities of a global system.

The project emphasizes the role that representations play as registers of symbolic meaning and as agents of affective change. It engages images from commercial and independent news media, as well as representations from artistic, literary, and popular entertainment sources, both in the West and the Middle East. These images are regarded in terms of attention strategy and perception management, but they are also regarded in terms of cultural imaginaries of conflict, where they can operate as “fictionalized components of reality.” They are studied in terms of the deeper truths they may offer about collective identifications and aggressions, and their roles in the formation of a new body politic.

The project consists of a series of organized discussions that will occur online and in Rotterdam, throughout the year 2004. These discussions will involve participation from individuals working in politics, theory, criticism, the arts, and journalism from both the West and the Middle East. Rather than relying on discourses based upon Western conceptions of modernity, the project is dedicated to opening up new historical perspectives, exploring the potential of Islamist discourse as a source of critical and political debate. It will thus include participation from progressive thinkers in the Islamic world.

A series of two publications will be released during the course of the year. Each of these publications will be organized around a key interpretive concept that emerges in the proceedings. Through this approach, Under Fire aims to help open up a discursive terrain that can offer new insights into symptomatic violence, and alternatives to its perpetuation.