Jasna Koteska

ESSAY: Terrorism
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Translated from the Macedonian by Rodna Ruskovska

What about Kafka?
Well, Kafka is not the least bit ‘Europe’. He is more ‘Africa’.

- Victor Erofeyev: 'Men'


Kafka is always in another space. If we think of him as ‘Europe’, Kafka is already ‘Africa’; he is not the least bit ‘Europe’. If we think of him as ‘Africa’, in that particular moment he is ‘Europe’. Kafka’s characters are not what we think them to be. Kafka’s characters are a space other than the space that we have intended for them. They are terrorists. They work on undermining the safe space. We cannot find their headquarters. The headquarters of Kafka's characters is not the headquarters of any other identity formation. Other revolutionaries also claimed that they have headquarters that cannot be found, but Kafka's characters are not revolutionaries, because, as already mentioned, they are terrorists.

And terrorists are always sons. Terrorists are sons of a father and they are the sons of the father’s regime. It is not a coincidence that Kafka’s stories are put together in the collection of stories entitled Sons.

The most famous story of the collection is Metamorphosis from 1915. Gregor Samsa financially supports his parents and his sister and works hard as a travelling salesperson. One morning he wakes up in his bed transformed into an enormous bug. That transformation is abject: He eats from the floor, crawls the walls with horrible, numerous legs. The members of his family lock him in the room. When he tries to leave, his father throws apples at him. One of them gets stuck on his back and causes an infection that makes him ill. When he dies, the cleaning lady collects his remains and throws them into the garbage disposal.

What we see here is an important lesson on the abject end of the terrorist – as a threat to the regime, the terrorist regularly ends up in the trash, like faeces. But Kafka’s text is important in disclosing the mechanism of becoming a regime terrorist.

There is a series of texts in literary criticism which don’t display a negative attitude towards the body, but rather very little understanding of its secrets. They read the metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa from man to bug from the perspective of an ‘economy and logic of the glance’. According to these readings, Samsa is not a bug, he is just like a bug; his family sees a bug in their, up to that moment, son and brother. This reasoning is fundamentally wrong; not only because its logic is in line with the moralism of Modernism, which maintains the impossibility of equating the human with the animalistic as a kind of luxury; but primarily because Kafka elegantly avoids the problem of the glance and the laws of spectatorship. The first eyes that recognise the bug in the travelling salesman Gregor Samsa are Samsa’s own: “He was lying on his hard, shell-like back and by lifting his head a little he could see his curved brown belly, divided by stiff arching ribs, on top of which the bed-quilt was precariously poised and seemed about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pathetically thin compared to the rest of his bulk, danced helplessly before his eyes.’ This is not the economy of the glance, key to the understanding of the monster from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, which is confronted with its identity not in the laboratory, but after the first contact with humans. The Monster adopts the glance of the other and in this way discovers its monstrous identity, monstrous because it is different from theirs. In Samsa’s case, the animosity/monstrosity becomes the true definition of the body. The other body imprints itself into his: instead of teeth, there is a jaw, instead of saliva, a pale, yellow fluid, instead of two legs, many tiny legs.

In the book 1000 Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari define animalism as an identity choice, as a decision for redefining one’s existence. In order to describe this new identity position, they introduce a new philosophical formula: ‘becoming animal’. As we can see from their formula, the word “like” is excluded. There is no agent in that formula because, as Deleuze and Gatari explain, the effect of the metaphor operation causes an essential misunderstanding of the laws of nature and the secrets of the body; the similarities do not distribute naturally in the process of the impersonating operation, but rather in the process of emanating the primary model. The exclusion of the agent means getting rid of the mimesis, the relation and the pair. It is an act of confronting Language. The symbolic entity of the body is dropped in order for the body to surrender to the pleasure of being and becoming one with nature. In Samsa’s case the transformation in the process of becoming animal is a rule that is connected to the process of getting closer, without an analogy, to the animal.

Gregor Samsa is an exceptionally important subject for the idea of the ‘abject’. In The Powers of Horror, Kristeva provides a broad definition of the abject as a space that not only disturbs systems and regimes, but identities as well. She claims that the amoral is not abject (the revolutionary, the one that commits suicide). The immoral is abjective: the terrorist that is in hiding, the friend that holds a knife behind the back; hate behind a smile. The terrorist is an abject identity. The terrorist position is abject because it undermines the regime’s stable identity. Now, I am not only a son, I am a son-terrorist.

Another reason why Samsa is important to the abject theme is his choice of terrorist operation: he carries it out by using animalism. The animal is closest to the abject. What is most often attacked in the abject, in the name of civilization, is the primitive, animal nature of humans: Give up your body, give up your dirty senses, your tribal belonging, join a global force that will turn us into ’clean’ sons of the ’clean’ regime.

Therefore, his becoming an animal, is not the becoming of just any animal, but a bug, a bug in one's home. The most despised insect, from a sanitary point of view, is the bug in the home.

Samsa "knows" that: In order to become a terrorist of the home, he must perform the most hated operation that affects the cleanliness of a home, and that operation is to become an insect in the home. Just as the anal object "is the most degraded object among all degraded objects , the bug is the most degraded of all degraded animals. The bug is scrutinised in a civilised world. In both mythology and literature, there are animals of virtue and there are those that are despised. The insect is not feared like the snake, it is not despised like the cuckoo, it is not a teller of bad fortune like the raven. It is abject, it causes nausea, a feeling of low self-worth and uselessness. Of all animals, the insect and especially the home insect, holds the position of pure abject. The bug is a referent of the abject.

The main question is: Why does the body of Gregor Samsa decide to lead a life close to the animal one? This becomes clear after another hidden metamorphosis is analysed – the one of the Father. After Samsa becomes the provider of financial care for his family, the father withdraws; when Samsa turns into a bug, the father is once again mobilised and goes back to work. Samsa’s strength is a result of the weakening of the father's energy and vice versa. There is another similar and more subtle metamorphosis in his younger sister: Being taken care of until then, she finds work and her future happy life is implied. That libidinal relief and force is related to the process of determining identities within the body of Patriarchy.
In terrorism, just like in sadism, the patriarchal issue is dominant, but the subjects of terrorism and sadism are different.

Deleuze writes that the sadist theme is rooted in the final instance of the theme of the father that destroys his family. In sadism, the image of the woman is such that she explodes. In an indicative scene, Samsa’s sister plays the piano for the tenants who have no aesthetic sense whatsoever and therefore turn this music episode into a parody. Playing the piano before a deaf audience is an order from the father to prostitute the daughter, while the tenants are a symptom of the break-up of the family. A sadist father is one that refuses laws, breaks-up the family and prostitutes its members.

We believe that the theme of the Son and his systemic turmoil are the basis of terrorism. Samsa’s decision to turn into a bug is connected to his desire to prostitute the capitalist idea: He is never idle. His strategy is the metamorphosis, and his final goal is to destroy the regime. The means of destruction is one’s own body, the body metamorphosises in order to promote Samsa as a terrorist of the regime, which is a type of body terrorism.

The body can most successfully destroy the patriarchal story. The body is the most successful means for destroying the patriarchal home.

Becoming a bug, Samsa cannot work anymore, he can just sit idly, i.e. in this way he questions the regime in which to be able to live, one must work. Ultimately, Gregor Samsa’s solution is the only way to make the wish of Balint’s charming patient, the one that Lacan writes about in Four Basic Terms of Psychoanalysis, come true. Kafka’s solution is not only a polite refusal to be tied to a contract, but rather a radical solution: ‘Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t negotiate with you as representatives of the regime, because I am no longer a man, I have no language.’ As long as there is language, Balint’s lady must go through a hard time, she must suffer from neurotic agreements and from attempts to manipulate the agreements in order to confirm the ambivalence of the world. When there is no language, there is no agreement, and there is actually no regime.

But, what is more important; in becoming a bug, going back to the animal, he makes all further procreation impossible! That is the ultimate goal of terrorism (in this it is close to sadism, although its strategic position is different): to make procreation impossible means to actively negate both the mother (as in sadism) and the father (which is the essence of terrorism).

Samsa, in the indefinite mixture of enjoyment and humiliation – issuing orders to the body while at the same time showing deep solidarity with the witnesses – actually makes possible the idea of existence outside the Symbolic regime. Since that existence, the existence outside the Regime, is essentially impossible – the Son is killed. The murder is committed by the hand of the father who then rehabilitates the family structure and restores the regime. It is a revengeful murder, but also an identity murder – only by killing the future father, one (once again) becomes a Father. On the field of your destroyed body, I become an entity, one and whole.


Kafka is a very important literary witness of the experience of living in our era. Together with Beckett, Freud and Marx, he is one of the key descriptors of the idea of Modernism. In a way, Kafka is the first to introduce the big theme of terrorism, the most important global-political issue of today.

On another occasion I introduced my definition of Modernism as a project led by the Son. The cultural sympathy and antipathy of the Son in the 20th century: Anti-globalisation, liberalisation and individualisation, as well as the conservative battles against the same, show that the cultural energy is concentrated around the Son.

This era became possible only after the capital investment that Freud made in the domain of sexual theory. His theory explained that the infantile subject has unlimited sexual capacity - one of Freud’s key texts is Infantile sexuality. This text made a re-evaluation of children’s sexuality, but at the same time raised awareness that in every subject there is ‘neglected infantilism’. Neglected infantilism is the capacity of each subject to call upon the child in oneself in order to start acting against the regime. The reason for that desire is in the subject’s primary positioning inside the Regime. The subject becomes a part of the regime only when it manages to drive out infantilism, when it consciously forgets about it, when there is intentional amnesia. The son’s sexual drives are forced into intentional amnesia, into neoteny (a term from Kristeva’s book Tales of Love) in order for it to be possible to put the son in the service of the Regime. The son in our post-Freudian era liberates infantilism, declares his desire as valid, and turns it into a position.

I am someone's son and as someone’s son I forget my desire in order to serve my father, consequentially, in order to serve the regime. Now I decide to give amnesty to my desire, to revive it. That desire is always in contrast with the regime, so I become a terrorist of that regime. However, in return, I expect to be amnestied precisely because I am the son of the father and the son of the regime. That is an impossible situation, equally impossible as the position of the son’s happiness and as the position of a terrorist escape from the regime.
In 2001, in a column of a Macedonian daily newspaper, a thesis appeared claiming that "the adolescent is a whole nation" (meaning the Macedonian nation), and that "our adolescence may be an advantage”. The advantage concerned is actually the advantage of terrorist infantilism. At the same time, after I am amnestied as infantile and as someone’s son, I can express my position of revolt and of rebellion without a cause. This era begins with the acknowledgement of the son’s right to be angry “without a reason", to be angry just because he is a son.

There is an interesting ‘game’ in naming terrorists. The terrorists of Chechnya are terrorists for the Russian media, but for part of the international media, they are rebels. The terrorists of Macedonia are terrorists for the Macedonian media, but for part of the international media, they are rebels. The terrorists of the IRA are terrorists for the British media, but for part of the international media, they are rebels. There are also quite a number of texts even in America, in which the attacks on the World Trade Centre of September 2001 are seen as rebel actions. For the rest of the world, they are terrorist actions.

The cultural sympathy towards the Son is not accidental and confuses these two phenomena. In diplomatic rhetoric, the terrorist is called a rebel only if he is a terrorist in foreign space, a terrorist of the foreign regime. Infantilism per se requires the Name to be conquered or at least restructured. The act of naming (when done from outside) gives a diplomatic note to the cultural attractiveness towards the Son, organized around an imaginary fascination with the glance (essentially naive) in an idealised image of oneself as the son in the foreign symbolic regime. The other way around, the son-terrorist is not attractive in my space, but I do not allow him the neotenic freedom to live life to the maximum, therefore I name him by restructuring and I expose his inherent sadism for everyone to see.

Considering the logic that works behind this position of terrorism towards the ambiguous regime, aside for the glance at the idealised image of oneself as a son in the foreign regime, one more factor needs to be considered, and that is the glance at the idealised image of the order.

Hollywood action movies play on the card of this second glance: there, all respect the order, only the charming son is an outcast, he really does not respect the rules that prevail for all, but he is attractive, equally attractive as the Greek hero that dares to be different from everyone else. All those living in Hollywood are citizens in an ideal sense; they obey the law as if it is logical per se. By contrast, in Serbian movies of the so-called post-Yugoslav era, the son-terrorist is not attractive. He does not kill more people than the Hollywood son, but the problem is that the system around him is dysfunctional. No one obeys the order, all subvert it, and excess is no longer amusing, because it is not outside the system, it is within the dysfunctional system.

These two views are not symmetrical. In the first case, I invest neotenic sympathy in the Son’s desire to rebel against the regime. In the second case, I invest in the preoedipal “promise” that the system is ideal, that it will satisfy all my desires, and that it will allow me endless enjoyment if I surrender to its laws.


In July 2003, the American Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, explained to the American public why the bloody photos of the dead bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein, the sons of the conquered Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, were published. The American and the world public were divided around the issue of whether the USA had violated the human dignity of the killed sons of Saddam Hussein by sending the photos to world news agencies. Those two days in July (25th and 26th), all branches of the world media showed the corpses of Sadam’s sons, without exception. Those following the main course of America’s fight against terrorism in 2003 might observe that the images concerned, the two corpses, are ultimately abjective: bloody, bloated and swollen - an image that we try to look at, feeling a strong internal resistance in the process. Let’s recall that according to Kristeva the corpse is an ultimate representative of the abject, but this it not true for just any corpse: the contextualized corpse in a church service or in a scientific laboratory draws its sense from the context. But the body thrown in a yard, photographed in the middle of the road, shown without any sense, becomes the final, definite, crucial and final representative of the abject per se. There is nothing more inappropriate than this corpse, as shown in the images of Saddam's sons. The religious community in Iraq protested to the USA, asking them to contextualize the corpses within their tradition and religion – they protested that the bodies should have been washed, unexposed and burned, all in accordance with Muslim customs. Rumsfeld explained that the American administration of George Bush thought that issuing these photographs would help reassure Iraqis, still afraid of Saddam’s regime, that he will never return.
Media representation of the abject, as we can see, is never naïve; representations of the unclean are always powerful a means of political manipulation. Several months before the images of Saddam’s sons appeared, footage was shown from the questioning of two American soldiers captured by the Iraqi army. Once shown by Al Jazeera, the footage was available on all TV channels and America's state leadership asked for the dignity of the captured soldiers to be protected in accordance with the directives of the Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War. They asked for the war to be depersonalized, sterilized and "cleaned” from the personal, from the face of an embodied, material, living human-being. The images of the tortured American soldiers were abjective and therefore disturbing, equally abjective as the corpses of Saddam’s sons - although in a different manner.

This is an example of an image production regime with an ideological price: Anybody’s face on the screen, but primarily the face of the unclean, is a powerful ideological tool. The face on the screen per se is an iconographic subject – everything that happens in war can be seen on this face. But the dirty face of the war fugitive, the tortured prisoner’s bloody face, or even more so, the dead face of Saddam’s son, is the abjective part of that personal message that touches the subjective part in us. The abject is the most powerful portrayal of the dirty background: it tells us what happens in the contaminated outside of war.

On the other side, the map without faces (iconographic subjects) depersonalises war. If there are no subjects, there can be no abject either - there is no dirt, filth of war and death, there is no dust, blood, sweat, mud. There is only a map of populated places, the strategic points are marked with a corporate marker, there is a clean background, an even war logic that follows the movement of the troops through populated and unpopulated places. The map does not hold any data on the casualties, there are no images of the abject, no suffering, fear and death. This is what the war reports from “our” side usually look like. The war map sends out a message: the unclean has been evicted from this war; we are at war against horror in a clean manner. The "dirtying” of the war, with the images of Saddam’s sons, occurs only when it is necessary to convince everyone that is not with us, to join us. This media duality of a clean and filthy war is an ideological regime that is, with no exception, followed in all important campaigns for the approval of new wars in the new style of combat.

Branka Arsic writes: "When the Serbs attacked Vukovar, Serbian state television only showed maps. However, when 200,000 Serbs were leaving Croatia, retreating before the Croatian army, Serbian television did not show a map explaining the directions of this retreat, they showed ‘soap opera images’, or explained otherwise, the retreat was filmed ’directly’; we watched starving people walking barefoot for miles, women in tears, children left by the side of the road, etc. The ideological tactics of this production of images is very clear. When ’we’ strike, when we are the ones causing the damage and injustice, or when we bring death, the field of view is organised as a map. This is in order to produce the basic idea that ‘we’ are not doing anything harmful or unjust, that we are good even when we kill. Of course, when ‘our’ people are killed, then we should show images of their bodies, their loved ones crying…".

The map is clean, there is no abject on it. An opposite example is the Byzantine icon, and iconography in general, which puts the subject ‘up front’ as the ideal carrier of the unclean. The unclean produced by the subject may live, introduce and represent itself only in close proximity to the subject, drawing from it its life force, and with that, its horror. The unclean therefore has no force in a mapped space which is always objectified for the glance. The structure of the unclean and its relation with the subject is such that if we try to add something unclean to the objectified space on the map - that operation will only be perceived as parody.


1. Kafka, Franc, Sinovi, Tri povesti, s nemačkog preveo Jovica Ačin, Beograd: IP Rad, 1999, 37.

2. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, The Athlone Press, London, 1992; 233-309.

3. Eva D. Bahovec: 'Oko za uho' in Delta, revija za zenske studije in feministicno teorijo, st. 1-2, Ljubljana, Drustvo za kulturoloske raziskave, 2004, 42.

4. Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty, Zone Books, New York 1991, str. 57–68.

5. Jasna Koteska: 'Seksualnata strategija na sinot kaj Kafka: terorizam ili azil' vo Identiteti, vol. 1, br. 1, Evro Balkan, Skopje , 2001.

6. The American war operations were shown on CNN under the title “War against Terror”, and not “War against Terrorism”. This involuntary error was hardly noticed. Of course, the real meaning is conscious media propagating of the war as a fight for moral welfare, and not political welfare.

7. Arsić, Branka: "Kasandra na bojnom polju" vo: Žene, slike, izmišljaji, Belgrade, Center za ženske studije, 2000, 47-8.

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