The Boston Bombers

12 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2014

See all articles by Leti Volpp

Leti Volpp

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: April 1, 2014

Abstract

On April 15, 2013, two bombs were set off during the Boston Marathon. The first suspects were fingered by the public through a new, technologically enabled vigilantism, based upon their appearance as "brown," or "looks Muslim." More than a decade after September 11, that those who appear Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim are identified as terrorists and disidentified as citizens, seems sadly uncontroversial. But what to make of the Tsarnaev brothers? I argue that, while both brothers are generally held to have been responsible for the bombings, Dzhokhar is perceived as the citizen and Tamerlan as the terrorist. While this is formally true - Dzhokhar had successfully naturalized as a citizen and Tamerlan had not - it is also the case that only the younger brother is perceived to be a citizen as a matter of identity. There is tremendous sympathy directed towards the younger brother. This is both linked to the belief that he was brainwashed by his older brother, and produced by a line between the "white ethnic" and "Islamic terrorist" the two brothers differently straddle. For many Americans, Dzhokhar is one of "us." Dzhokhar thus appears as the white American victim of his nonwhite - Muslim and alien - brother. In the words of his friends, Dzhokhar was "just a normal American kid," and, as such, he resists being cast as a monster, the monster that we assume to be the terrorist.

Keywords: citizen, terrorist, profiling, race, brothers, Tsarnaevs, Muslim

Suggested Citation

Volpp, Leti, The Boston Bombers (April 1, 2014). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 82, 2014; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2419287. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2419287

Leti Volpp (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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