(Dark) Pure War: Virilio, the Cinematic, and the Racial.


Armond R. Towns


Paul Virilio’s work has largely been utilized in theories of media and war, specifically his discussion of ‘pure war’, or the continuance of war beyond its physicality. Cinema, for Virilio, was a pedagogical tool toward preparing populations for such a war. Cinema produced images of objects, perceptually distancing audiences from said objects; it, thus, prepared ‘everyone’ to become objects open to being watched, holding relevance for cinema, surveillance, and information studies. Yet, this concern with watching and surveillance is not race neutral. I argue that Virilio’s work on pure war can be reinterpreted as ‘dark pure war’, concerned with a militaristic, unending war against nonwhite populations. Such war presumes both physical and digital forms of colonialist militarism, policing, and surveillance, particular as information is often assumed to be race-neutral, while also being weaponized toward dark pure war’s continuance. Thus, race is an underexamined, overlooked element of Virilio’s theory.

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