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The Theater of OperationsThe Theater of Operations

National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror

Joseph Masco

Narrated by Scott Wallace

Approximately 9.5 hours

Unabridged


Downloadable edition:

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Book published by Duke University Press


How did the most powerful nation on earth come to embrace terror as the organizing principle of its security policy? In The Theater of Operations, Joseph Masco locates the origins of the present-day U.S. counterterrorism apparatus in the Cold War’s "balance of terror." He shows how, after the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. global War on Terror mobilized a wide range of affective, conceptual, and institutional resources established during the Cold War to enable a new planetary theater of operations. Tracing how specific aspects of emotional management, existential danger, state secrecy, and threat awareness have evolved as core aspects of the American social contract, Masco draws on archival, media, and ethnographic resources to offer a new portrait of American national security culture. Undemocratic and unrelenting, this counterterror state prioritizes speculative practices over facts, and ignores everyday forms of violence across climate, capital, and health in an unprecedented effort to anticipate and eliminate terror threats—real, imagined, and emergent.

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post–Cold War New Mexico, winner of the J. I. Staley Prize from the School for Advanced Research and the Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science.

REVIEWS:

“Joseph Masco’s brilliance lies in his ability to make visible the complex affective and discursive technologies that emerged from the long history of the Cold War, and to illuminate their effects on our everyday perceptions of security and harm. This much-anticipated book will be read widely in cultural anthropology and cultural studies. It is beautifully written and argued. That one leaves The Theater of Operations a bit paranoid is a tribute to Masco’s rhetorical skill.”

—Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism

“We know that in the Cold War transportation infrastructures boomed, electronic infrastructures had to be hardened. We know about weapons and counter-weapons; we even have learned about the astonishing proliferation of security mechanisms put in place during the War on Terror. What Joseph Masco shows us in The Theater of Operations is an entire affective structure—the management of anxiety, resilience, steadfastness, sacrifice—that is demanded of every citizen. Alert to liquid containers above 2.4 ounces, hypervigilant to abandoned bags, suspicious loitering, or the detonation of a thermonuclear weapon—we learn to live our lives aware of tiny and apocalyptic things. With an anthropologist’s eye long attuned to life in the para-wartime state, Masco is the perfect guide to the theater of our lives in the security state.”

—Peter Galison, author of Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time




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University Press Audiobooks