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Title: Political myth and the need for significance : finding ontological security during times of terror
Author: Kirke, Alexander Tom Sebastian
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 768X
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis offers a novel theoretical framework for analysing how political and media elites invoke political myths following terror attacks. It does not define political myths as necessarily false claim or untrue stories, but instead draws on the existentialist approaches of Hans Blumenberg and Chiara Bottici to argue that they are form of dramatic narrative that answers human needs for significance (Bedeutsamkeit). Human beings require significance to live in a world that is otherwise indifferent to them or, as Martin Heidegger put it, they are “thrown” into. The thesis thereby connects modern literature on political myth to concept of Angst, most prominently discussed by Søren Kierkegaard and expanded upon by later existentialist philosophers. The thesis elaborates on this with the novel insight that the process of finding significance is also an act of constructing ontological security, and that this is particularly apparent in times of crisis. Following the works of Anthony Giddens and Stuart Croft, the thesis defines ontological security as a condition in which people have constructed a sense of biographical continuity, have a strong web of trust-relations, and are able to avoid Angst. The thesis argues that terror attacks are moments where ontological security (not just physical security) is under threat, and that the process of finding significance (Bedeutsamkeit) through the work on myth simultaneously (re)establishes ontological security. It focuses on two empirical examples: the 7th July 2005 bombings in London and the 2013 Murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. Following these terror attacks, senior political figures and media commentators invoked a political myth which portrayed the United Kingdom as embroiled in an existential conflict with violent radical Muslims inspired by a warped interpretation of Islam. The thesis concludes that its novel theoretical framework can enable an understanding of discursive responses to other terror attacks across the globe.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available