Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb, "Terror Epidemics: Islamophobia and the Disease Poetics of Empire" (U Chicago Press, 2021)


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Terrorism is a cancer, an infection, an epidemic, a plague. For more than a century, this metaphor has figured insurgent violence as contagion in order to contain its political energies. In Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror, 1817–2020 (University of Chicago Press, 2021), Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, shows that this trope began in responses to the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and tracks its tenacious hold through 9/11 and beyond. Raza Kolb assembles a diverse archive from colonial India, imperial Britain, French and independent Algeria, the postcolonial Islamic diaspora, and the neoimperial United States. Across literary, administrative, medical, and other non-literary sources, she reveals the tendency to imagine anticolonial rebellion, and Muslim insurgency specifically, as a virulent form of social contagion. In our conversation we discuss “imperial disease poetics,” British colonialism in South Asia, the 1857 rebellion, global cholera outbreaks, the Hajj pilgrimage, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the struggle for Algerian independence, Albert Camus’ The Plague, the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, Frantz Fanon, Djamila Boupacha, Salman Rushdie representation of radical Islamism, the 9/11 Commission Report, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, and the Osama bin Laden mission.

Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

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