Have You Seen This Man?
They call out to us from the walls of our cities. If you have seen this man,
please contact the police. He might be armed and is dangerous.
In today’s culture, in which images of desirable bodies are on open dis-
play, drawing to their surface the public gaze, the terrorist’s unglamorous
image carries a whiff of the street. Despite the information provided about
his name and place of birth, he is somehow more anonymous. We see
him in smudgy, often out-of-date photographs and charcoal drawings; he
arouses not desire but suspicion; he is wanted only by the police. The ter-
rorist is the “missing person” of an earlier and more innocent age. The face
we see on the wall is more of an absence, an absence that emerges from a
fear in our hearts. Unless he is caught, we believe we won’t have security.
When we see his picture on the peeling poster, the man looks like no
one else around us. Or like everyone around us.
And yet we’re often quite certain in our judgments about these faces
when they are assumed to belong to foreigners. On December 13, 2001, a
group of men armed with guns and explosives attacked the Indian Parlia-
ment. All of the attackers were killed; their identities have still not been
established. But after seeing pictures of the slain assailants, Lal Krishna
Advani, the home minister of India, is said to have remarked that the
men “looked like Pakistani terrorists.” But what do Pakistani terrorists
look like? On the night of November 26, 2008, when the ten young men
from Pakistan came ashore in Mumbai no one pointed at them on the
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