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Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics

What is Brussels? Laurent Dubois puts terror attack in context.

March 23, 2016

Over the past couple of years, we've held several discussions at the Forum for Scholars and Publics about global terrorism. In addition to those discussions, our faculty have also been drawing on their scholarly research to write analyses that can help inform public understanding of the contexts within which terror attacks are taking place. This essay was published by the FSP Director, Laurent Dubois, at Slate after this week's attack in Brussels.


What is Brussels? The images of Tuesday’s attacks are of a city in transit, a crowded metro and a bustling airport, banal sites of everyday movement—now turned into spaces of death. The city is much less legible and familiar than Paris.  We learn of fragments of its geography—an immigrant neighborhood called Molenbeek and downtown subway station called Maelbeek—but what connects them?

Brussels is many things at once: the de facto capital of the European Union, a contested site in the long-running conflict between Dutch- and French-speaking groups, and a city of immigrants, remarkably cosmopolitan and diverse—a crossroads of histories and conflicts. The city is a place, but we should also think of it as a project: imperfect, unfinished, but essential.

Read the complete essay at Slate.

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