Corporate capitalist practice and terrorism collide in a new book by Dr Suzi Mirgani, a researcher at the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) from Georgetown University in Qatar.
In Target Markets: International Terrorism Meets Global Capitalism in the Mall, Dr Mirgani explores the points of convergence between consumerism, globalisation, and acts of terror. The book offers insight into the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, which resulted in a four day siege that left at least 67 people dead. Using this incident as a case study, Mirgani explores the intersection of socio-economic forces, terrorism, and capitalism with an increasingly common feature of everyday urban life: the shopping mall.
Terrorist attacks against urban commercial enterprises have become worryingly frequent, seemingly arbitrary and increasingly international, says Mirgani, also the managing editor for publications at CIRS.
With widespread availability and access to information and communication technologies, these incidences have become highly publicised through corporate news media networks and personal social media platforms, and these images are in constant circulation.’
It was this sharing of images of the siege in Nairobi that led to the idea for the book, after Mirgani watched news footage that depicted scenes of tragedy set against a clashing background of colourful shops and happy advertisements.
I knew there was something more complex about this event, and about the shopping mall venue in which it took place, that needed to be further studied. The victims of the attack were caught somewhere in between capitalism and terrorism as the two most powerful discursive forces of contemporary culture—the most mainstream and the most extreme. Both ultimately had some effect on the proceedings.’
The book uses the Westgate attack as an example of how shopping malls can allow contesting forces, such as socio-economic inequalities and corporate capitalism, to meet in a common space.
A shopping mall’s simultaneous role as an agent of global corporate capitalism, and yet as a place of everyday encounter, serves to localise many international tensions, whether related to production and consumption, or terrorist practice. I really hope that, by highlighting the many faults, collusion, and duplicity associated with this one incident, we can take a more critical view of things we take for granted.’
Mirgani is an independent film maker and the editor and co-author of numerous books on topics ranging from food security in the Middle East to media and politics. Her short film Hind’s Dream won the jury award for artistic vision at the 2014 Ajyal Film Festival, and has screened at film festivals around the world.
Visit the Georgetown University in Qatar website for more information about Suzi Mirgani.