The Discourse of the Absent Body

  • Bruce Williams


WITHOUT HABEAS CORPUS: THE DISCOURSE OF THE ABSENT BODY As the Twin Towers collapsed into a cloud of dust covering Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, the corporal remains of several thousand people evaporated with them - cremated and scattered in a matter of seconds. Bodies vanished, nameless, and families were denied closure, a place to grieve. This event, unique in the history of the United States precipitated an equally unprecedented period of national mourning, unprecedented in its lack of finality. At memorial services throughout the nation, obviously dead victims were described as "missing" for lack of a better term. This tragedy recalls the lack of closure suffered by families of the "disappeared persons" of Chile and Argentina, who likewise have experienced an aborted grief process.(1) As Chilean human rights activist Marjorie Agosín has stated in Andrew Johnson's documentary film, Threads of Hope, the presence of the body in...