The Christchurch Mosque Shootings: Performative Solidarity and Oppositional Identity

Authors: Jibran Ludwig*, University of Wyoming
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: terrorism, white supremacy, identity, the West, geopolitics, political geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In March 2019, Brenton Tarrant became the first person to livestream a mass shooting when he attacked two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Within hours, state and corporate efforts to remove his livestream had scrubbed it from most major websites. In my research I use Max Abrahms’ theory that terrorist violence is motivated by a desire for collective solidarity instead of rational political strategy to understand the significance of making violence visible in this particular way. Tarrant’s livestream and manifesto are filled with memes and references meant to establish his membership within an internet savvy, international community of white supremacists. In the absence of a formal group, Tarrant must perform his collective solidarity visibly. In doing so he also attempts to incite other members of his community to commit acts of terrorism. In his manifesto, Tarrant lays out a worldview predicated on a hostile dichotomy between “the East” and “the West.” “The West” is threatened by “the invaders” from “the East,” who must be violently expelled. In this oppositional identity formation, Tarrant finds an unlikely ally in President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who used sections of Tarrant’s footage at political rallies to generate a mirror narrative of the Muslim world threatened by Western invaders. What both Tarrant and Erdoğan have in common is a commitment to maintaining identities rooted in a rejection of the “other,” with more concern for stability of group identity than with the well being of its members.

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