Shell ShockedThe Social Response to Terrorist Attacks
Shell Shocked
The Social Response to Terrorist Attacks
Translated by Andrew Brown

What is it that leaves us shell shocked in the face of the massacres carried out in New York on 9/11 or in Paris on 13 November 2015? How are we to explain the intensity of the reaction to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo? Answering these questions involves trying to understand what a society goes through when it is subjected to the ordeal of terrorist attacks. And it impels us to try to explain why millions of people feel so concerned and shaken by them, even when they do not have a direct connection with any of the victims.

In Shell Shocked, sociologist Gérôme Truc sheds new light on these events, returning to the ways in which ordinary individuals lived through and responded to the attacks of 9/11, of 11 March 2004 in Madrid and 7 July 2005 in London. Analysing the political language and the media images, the demonstrations of solidarity and the minutes of silence, as well as the tens of thousands of messages addressed to the victims, his investigation reveals all the ambiguity of our feelings about the Islamists’ attacks. And it brings out the sources of the solidarity that, in our individualistic societies, ultimately finds expression in the first person singular rather than the first person plural: ‘I am Charlie’, ‘I am Paris’.

This timely and path-breaking book will appeal to students and scholars is sociology and politics and to anyone interested in understanding the impact of terrorism in contemporary societies.

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  • November 2017
  • 304 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509520336
  • Paperback $26.95
  • 9781509520343
  • Open eBook $26.95
  • 9781509520374
Table of Contents

Introduction: Terrorist attacks as a test

Part I: What is happening to us

Chapter 1: Under attack

9/11 live: accident, terrorist attack, or act of war?

The view from Europe: from Western solidarity to a cosmopolitan perspective

Chapter 2: Experiencing your ‘own’ 9/11

11 March attacks like a ‘new 9/11’

7 July 2005, a ‘British 9/11?

Chapter 3: To show, or not to show, violence

The place of the dead

The ethics of iconographic decisions

Chapter 4: Demonstrating solidarity

The attacks as a ‘time to demonstrate’

Why demonstrate after an attack?

Chapter 5: Observing silence

A ritual of collective mourning

A problem of moral equivalence

Part II: What touches us

Chapter 6: Terrorist attacks and their publics

From written reactions to the concerned publics

In what capacity an attack concerns us

Chapter 7: The meanings of ‘we’

Above and below the level of the nation

World cities and the test of terrorism

Chapter 8: The values at stake

Reactions to terrorist attacks as value judgments

The banal pacifism of the Europeans

Chapter 9: The attacks in persons

The singularization of the victims

Reacting as a singular person

Chapter 10: Solidarity in the singular

The attachment to place

The coincidence of dates

The homology of experiences

Conclusion: ‘There’s something of Charlie in all of us’

About the Author
Gérôme Truc is a sociologist, tenured research fellow at the CNRS and member of the Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique. He teaches at the École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay.
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"Truc's hermeneutic powers are extraordinary. He reveals the post-hoc framing process that transformed 9/11 from an event into a structure in the American and European collective consciousness. For example, he relates the immediate attribution of the 'war' frame to deep collective memories in the U.S. about Pearl Harbor, and he relativizes European understandings of subsequent terrorist events in the same way, demonstrating that they are interpretations based on analogical reasoning rather than explanations based on real experience. This book deserves to be read and discussed widely."
Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University

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