Publication Details

Zournazi, M. (2007). Keywords to war: reviving language in an age of terror. Carlton North, Victoria: Scribe Publications. Copyright 2007 Mary Zournazi. The publisher's website is available here.


Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once noted that there are two types of political freedom: one is freedom from violence, the other is freedom from lies. These freedoms have become the site of a modern conundrum, echoes of which can be heard today in the ways language is caught within spiralling cycles of violence and lies that serve to alienate us from ourselves and others. It is also evident in the political attitudes towards freedom and justice that have surfaced in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks and been fed by a climate of fearful and terrorising politics. Within this scenario, betrayal and a perpetuation of injustice pervades much social and political thinking and agendas, as a result of which, truth becomes veiled in an everincreasing violation of language and, at the same time, the violation of human dignity and life. Keywords to War is a response to this profoundly disturbing environment. The book emerges at time when the cultural dimensions of English language use have altered key words and concepts, such as freedom, justice and truth, that we hold dear in our democracies. Underpinning this corruption of language is what Bertolt Brecht famously called a 'moral conscience' of war that structures our day-to-day experience and activity. Taking this structure seriously, this book explores the inextricable link between language and a deteriorating moral conscience; taken together these elements infiltrate our perception of and how we function in the world. Now more than ever it is necessary to extricate ourselves from this quagmire, and from the confused and disputed meanings that permeate and have produced an often latent, but significantly charged, mental state of war in our everyday lives, so much so that our interior worlds and social spaces are infused with the language of war.