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26 October 2012 @ 10:02 am
[Book Note] Ulrike Meinhof and the Red Army Faction: Performing Terrorism  
Leith Passmore, Ulrike Meinhof and the Red Army Faction: Performing Terrorism, Palgrave MacMillan, New York 2011.

Pretty fascinating and at times downright chilling analysis of Ulrike Meinhof's writings, retracing her transition from left-wing journalist into one of Germany's most high-profile terrorists of the early 1970s. As the Amazon.com book description puts it: "Leith Passmore traces Meinhof's struggle to communicate [...]. He examines for the first time the performativity of terrorist acts of language, imagery, and physical violence to reveal how Meinhof made and re-made RAF terrorism."

What seems especially noteworthy besides the highlighting of certain key aspects and tendencies in Meinhof's work, is how Passmore also provides a rather clear account of society's ongoing inability to deal with a biography like Meinhof's and its readiness to write off terrorist acts as individual cases of mental defunction. Just to give you an example from the book's introduction:

As early as 1970, Meinhof's then estranged husband Klaus Rainer Röhl publicly linked the [brain] operation with her slide into terrorism. [In the early 1960s Meinhof had undergone brain surgery, during which a widened blood vessel was treated with a silver clasp]... [Röhl] cited a severe change of personality - a sudden callousness and sexual distance - resulting from the surgery and, potentially causing Meinhof to enter the underground. Shortly after she entered prison, judge Knoblich ordered an examination of her brain based on the possibility that her illness was a contributing factor to her behaviour of the early 1970s. Debate ignited in 2002 when, decades after it had been removed from Meinhof's body and disappeared, her brain was rediscovered and examined for a second time. Both the 1997 and the 2002 examinations were undertaken to find a cause for Meinhof's terrorism in a brain defect.




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Selenaselenak on October 26th, 2012 10:03 am (UTC)
Have you read Bettina Röhl's So macht Kommunismus Spaß" about her parents? Fascinating and uncomfortable, and deeply angry with both her mother and father. This article, a conversation between Bettina Röhl and psychologist Margarete Mitscherlich, gives you a good idea of why beyond the obvious.

Edited at 2012-10-26 10:03 am (UTC)
Bimobimo on October 26th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
Lots of thanks for pointing those out to me! I've just begun reading up on the topic (so far my knowledge about Meinhof/RAF has been restricted to just the basic historical key events and dates), so I wasn't familiar with either of the texts.