'We [for]got him': Remembering and forgetting in the narration of bin Laden's death

Lee Jarvis, Jack Holland

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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This article explores how the death of Osama bin Laden was narrated by the Obama administration between the night of his killing and the 2012 State of the Union address. Three aspects of this unfolding story, in particular, are explored: i) descriptions of the operation itself; ii) constructions of bin Laden’s life and character; iii) accounts of the significance and likely consequences of his killing. The article argues that the narration of these events was characterised, first, by considerable discursive continuity with the war on terrorism discourse of George W. Bush, and, second, by a gradual removal or ‘forgetting’ of bin Laden and the circumstances of his death. Each of these dynamics, we argue, contributed to the legitimisation of his killing, demonstrating the importance of narrative remembrance and forgetting alike for the conduct and justification of liberal violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-447
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Barack Obama error
  • forgetting
  • memory
  • narrative
  • Osama bin Laden
  • War on terror

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