The work of this book has been, to borrow from Jacques Derrida (who
borrowed from Freud), the work of mourning.
My younger brother, Sandeep, died suddenly on February 20, 2003 while
in India with his partner and his son, who had just celebrated his first
birthday. Three weeks later, to the day, the United States invaded Iraq. I
went to work that morning and discovered that I had completely and ut-
terly forgotten about the impending war. I was shocked to realize that,
floundering in my own shock, it is possible to disintegrate into such a small
place that one can forget these things. I relate these circumstances because I
believe it is important to understand where a book comes from and why it
shows up in the way it does. Most of the time this commitment can be met
without such explicit detail, hinted at within the interstices of what is
stated and what is felt, what is written in order to navigate what must
remain unsaid. In The Work of Mourning Derrida points out that it is an
obscenity to speak of the dead in any type of instrumental manner. Yet, he
also notes, it is a betrayal to not speak of them at all, a travesty not to share
one’s sadness.
It is in between these two scenes of death that this book emanates.
Simultaneously confronted with the devastation of a personal death so
proximate and intimate and the political deaths of those at a distance, I
began writing. From the vantage of a Spivakian ‘‘textuality of an event,’’
these two scenes of death, seemingly disjunctive, revealed themselves to be
delicately intertwined. I emphasize delicately because their obvious di√er-
ences of scale, magnitude, and import leave them incomparable—they
should never stand side by side—the death of a privileged young Sikh physi-
cian whose funeral was attended by four hundred people, and the thou-
sands of faceless, nameless deaths shoved under the term ‘‘collateral dam-
age’’ whose bodies, if lucky, were cremated en masse. The singularity of
each death defies scalar ordering. One death can completely upturn the
landscape of those left behind, while the senseless killing of thousands can
remain the most unspectacular and normalized of occurrences, rationalized
for the sake of securing just one life. Often numbers matter not, or matter
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