Trust Your Senses – Militarism and Multiculture


Les Back is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College.

Les engages with the sonic and the sensory to explore bombing cultures and bombed cultures. He starts with George Orwell’s account of English identity and bombing to draws together three points: the relationship between airpower and airpower with particular reference to colonialism; an understanding of militarism and nationalism in Britain’s’ post imperial circumstances; and, an understanding of the relationship between British history as a bombed and bombing culture and how that inhibits a society that is at peace with itself. It is suggested that contemporary debates about nationalism and racism would benefit from being informed by analytical conversations between militarism, formations of nationalism, and the issue of contemporary multiculturalism. The article ends with a discussion of the relationship between these processes and multiculturalism, the “war on terror” and the role of the British army – many of whose recruits continue to come from Commonwealth countries – in global counterinsurgency. It argues that a politics of fear, present in a bombed and bombing culture, attacks the senses and produces a kind of sensory structure to the extent that our senses are not to be trusted.