The lightness (and darkness) of being

The Light of God slide.001

Pip Thornton‘s wonderful ‘The meaning of light: seeing and being on the battlefield‘ – which, among many other good things, worries away at the conceit shown in the image above – is just out in Cultural geographies (Online First).  It will eventually form part of a special issue on ‘Darkness’ edited by Tim Edensor.

Here’s the abstract:

On the battlefield, light and dark mean much more than the (dis)ability to see. While the darkness of night-time can be used as a tactic, providing cover for personal and territorial defence and attack, it also affects and secures bodies and the spaces they inhabit in other more immediate and intimate ways, recalibrating senses and redefining distance. Light too can spell both safety and danger on the battlefield, disciplining and controlling its occupants with often asymmetrical power-plays of affect and aggression. Using autoethnographic examples of experiences in Iraq in 2003 (based on the poem below), this article sets out to challenge traditional binaries of light/ dark, good/bad and to question the elemental, cultural and technological sovereignty of light and vision in modern battlespaces.

And here’s the poem:

Light Discipline

In a blackout we adjust our sights

by touch and cup our smoke against

the desert, waiting for the light.

At long last the barrel scrapes

into place and the night is instantly

exposed. I cover my ears and watch.

In the distance a fitful city crouches,

seared eyes raised to the floating

arc above, waiting for the strike.