Essays, graphic novels, films, and commentary examine the figure of the suspect and the politics of suspicion in a post-9/11 world.
What is the condition of the suspect in a post-9/11 world? Do perpetual detention, ubiquitous surveillance cameras, and the legal apparatus of the USA Patriot Act target suspects accurately or generate suspicion indiscriminately? Suspect, the latest in a series from Alphabet City and the first in its new format of topical book-length magazines, gathers hard evidence about the fate of the suspect in a culture of suspicion with contributions from writers, artists, and filmmakers. Their testimony takes a multiplicity of forms and formats. Among them: A 24-page color comic by graphic novelist Joey Dubuc asks the reader to make narrative choices in a web of surveillance, suspicion, and fear. Harper's contributor Mark Kingwell observes that while suspicion tries to isolate the suspect, in fact we are all the suspect. Slavoj Zizek reflects on the new cultural status of the suspect after Abu Ghraib. Philosopher George Bragues argues that even as the United Nations looks for ways to discipline "suspect nations," it simply cannot succeed under current international conditions. Alphabet City editor John Knechtel interviews Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, about the legal and political strategies of the Bush administration. Sylwia Chrostowska describes what happens, in the the 1970 Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, when a corrupt official investigates himself. Screenwriter Timothy Stock and illustrator Warren Heise create a documentary in comic form about Critical Ensemble artist Steve Kurtz, charged under the bioterrorism provisions of the Patriot Act. Novelist Camilla Gibb portrays, in "Things Collapse," the terrifying effects of a "separating sickness" of unknown origin, which perhaps exists only in the fears of the population it strikes. And novelist Diana Fitzgerald Bryden follows her character Rafa Ahmed, a PFLP hijacker from the 1970s, as, many years later, she is to appear at a peace conference. Filmmaker Patricia Rozema, director of Mansfield Park and other films, contributes a 16-page film-in-a-book, "Suspect." Suspect is a non-partisan handbook on the mechanisms and machinations of suspicion for the twenty-first century national security state.
John Knechtel is Director of Alphabet City Media in Toronto.
The Canadian think tank Alphabet City gets to the heart of post-9/11 existence with this pocket-sized gem focused on the figure of the suspect.... The Toronto symposium that accompanied the book's publication last winter proved how valuable Alphabet City's insistence on interdiscplinarity could ultimately be in enriching and broadening the parameters of humanistic public debate.
Unlike other Sept. 11-inspired books, this one does not seek to witness or interpret the attacks so much as to account for the philosophical, moral, ethical and legal complexities of suspicion in a time of terror and war. It challenges us to consider not only what it means to be suspicious, but also what it means to suspect - as individuals and as nations. In that sense, it may be the most sweeping Sept. 11 volume to date.... Even the design of Suspect challenges readers. The size of the book - fat and square, about the width of a spread hand - creates the sense of something intimate, or perhaps contraband. The collection begins with a series of images: close-ups of an eye, a retinal scan, the eye printed on the dollar bill, a video camera lens. It's as if the book is literally looking back at readers, a silent surveillance. It looks so certain on the outside, but the inside churns with doubt.