An anthropologist weighs in on the demonization of Chechnya and Chechens after the Boston Marathon bombing

Sarah Kendzior, in a recent opinion piece on Al Jazeera, compares the aftermath of President McKinley’s assassination by a Polish-American to that of last week’s Boston Marathon bombings. In the piece, she argues that Chechen ethnicity became demonized (and criminalized). She writes:

 

Knowing nothing of the Tsarnaevs’ motives, and little about Chechens, the American media tore into Wikipedia and came back with stereotypes. The Tsarnaevs were stripped of their 21st century American life and became symbols of a distant land, forever frozen in time. Journalist Eliza Shapiro proclaimed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was “named after a brutal warlord”, despite the fact that Tamerlan, or Timur, is an ordinary first name in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Her claim is equivalent to saying a child named Nicholas must be named in honour of ruthless Russian tsar Nicholas I – an irony apparently lost on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who made a similar denouncement on Twitter (to his credit, Kristof quickly retracted the comment).

 

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