Arshin Adib-Moghaddam: Discourse and Violence: The Friend-Enemy Conjunction in Contemporary Iranian-American Relations
43 Discourse and Violence: The Friend-Enemy Conjunction in Contemporary Iranian- American Relations Arshin Adib-Moghaddam “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” (Sun Tzu) “The one mind may err with regard to the same thing, especially if this mind does not reflect frequently on the opinion to which it ad- heres and does not consider it with an examining and critical eye.” (Abu Nasr Farabi) Iranian-American relations have been beset by mistrust and occasional outbreaks of vitriol and violence for the past three decades now. In this nar- rative I attempt to map, theoretically and empirically, the “discursive field” in which relations between Iran and the United States reveal themselves. I am interested in representations of Iran and the United States, and how the fundamental friend-enemy distinction setting the two countries politically apart has come about. I take as a starting point, with critical theorists of international relations,1 that discourse has a real and present impact on pol- icy and that a lot that is happening in world politics can be adequately con- textualised with an appreciation of the linkages between “utterance” and “action”. What do I mean by the term “discursive field”? I have explained in de- tail elsewhere how politico-cultural inventions affect and condition the way we perceive our surrounding social worlds.2 Perceptions in world poli- tics are particularly compromised and manipulated because the ontological fabric of the international system is professionally constructed. Discourse, and at a more basic level language, is central...
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