Speaking about Torture

Speaking about Torture

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This collection of essays is the first book to take up the urgent issue of torture from the array of approaches offered by the arts and humanities. In the post-9/11 era, where we are once again compelled to entertain debates about the legality of torture, this volume speaks about the practice in an effort to challenge the surprisingly widespread acceptance of state-sanctioned torture among Americans, including academics and the media-entertainment complex. Speaking about Torture also claims that the concepts and techniques practiced in the humanities have a special contribution to make to this debate, going beyond what is usually deemed a matter of policy for experts in government and the social sciences. It contends that the way one speaks about torture-including that one speaks about it-is key to comprehending, legislating, and eradicating torture. That is, we cannot discuss torture without taking into account the assaults on truth, memory, subjectivity, and language that the humanities theorize and that the experience of torture perpetuates. Such accounts are crucial to framing the silencing and demonizing that accompany the practice and representation of torture.

Written by scholars in literary analysis, philosophy, history, film and media studies, musicology, and art history working in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, the essays in this volume speak from a conviction that torture does not work to elicit truth, secure justice, or maintain security. They engage in various ways with the limits that torture imposes on language, on subjects and community, and on governmental officials, while also confronting the complicity of artists and humanists in torture through their silence, forms of silencing, and classic means of representation. Acknowledging this history is central to the volume's advocacy of speaking about torture through the forms of witness offered and summoned by the humanities.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 152 x 230 x 26mm | 621.42g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 0823242242
  • 9780823242245

Table of contents

Introduction Julie Carlson and Elisabeth Weber: For the Humanities I. America Tortures Lisa Hajjar: An Assault on Truth: A Chronology of Torture, Deception and Denial Alfred McCoy: In the Minotaur's Labyrinth: Psychological Torture, Public Forgetting, and Contested History II. Singularities of Witness Reinhold Gorling: Torture and society (translated from German by Glenn Patten) Susan Derwin: What Nazi Crimes Against Humanity Can Tell us about Torture Today Elisabeth Weber: "Torture was the essence of National Socialism". Reading Jean Amery today Sinan Antoon: What did the Corpse Want? Torture in Poetry III. Graphic Assaults, Sensory Overload John Nava: Thoughts on the making of "Signing Statement Law or An Alternate Set of Procedures" ("America tortures") and "Our Torture is Better than Their Torture" Abigail Solomon-Godeau: Torture and Representation: The Art of Detournement Stephen Eisenman: Water-boarding -- A Torture both Intimate and Sacred Hamid Dabashi: Damnatio Memoriae Viola Shafik: Rituals of Hegemonic Masculinity: Cinema, Torture and the Middle East Peter Szendy: Music and torture: the stigmata of sound and sense (translated from French by Allison Schifani and Zeke Sikelianos) Christian Gruny: The language of feeling made into a weapon. Music as an instrument of torture IV. Declassifying Writing Julie Carlson: Romantic Poet Legislators: The Ends of Torture Darieck Scott: The fine details: Torture and the Social Order Colin Dayan: Reasonable Torture, or the Sanctities (Gaza, September 2009) Richard Falk: John Yoo, the Torture Memos, and Ward Churchill: Exploring the Outer Limits of Academic Freedom
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Review quote

Given on-going attempts to legitimate and normalize torture, this rich and varied collection opens new perspectives of engagement. Its contributors disrupt smug euphemisms and bear witness to the horrifying damage torture inflicts, annihilating flesh, intimacy, trust, and memory. With readings ranging from the memoirs of Holocaust survivors to the photographs of Abu Ghraib and beyond, scholars of the law, media, literature, history, philosophy, music and the visual arts show how critical work in the arts and humanities can, and must, take part in the struggle against torture's banalization. -- -Page DuBois * University of San Diego * The newspapers can tell us what causes torture, but not about what it means for our lives. This collection does just that. Beyond the apology for torture, the cries for trials, the sad litany of horrors, these authors turn to art, writing, memory and witnessing - the real means by which we can care for ourselves in the face of a disturbing past and an uncertain future. Readers travel from the Iraqi poets of Abu Ghraib to the visions of the Iranian prison of Kahrizak, from the cinematic images of the past to the playlists on your ipod, and ultimately circle back to Jean Amery's portentous reminder that after torture, we will always have to work to be at home in our world. -- -Darius Rejali * Reed College * "A rich collection of essays which should appeal to a wide audience of scholars and students from the humanities and social sciences. Due to its very accessible style it may also be of interest to the general public interested in contemporary American politics." -- -Vanessa Lemm * Institute of Humanities at the Universidad Diego Portales * This richly variegated volume gathers together bracing and often brilliant analyses of matters one wishes were not so timely: the practices of torture and how people speak, lie, and obfuscate about them. It opens our eyes and keeps them open wide. -- -Ian Balfour * York University *
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About Elisabeth Weber

Julie A. Carlson is professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of In the Theatre of Romanticism: Coleridge, Nationalism, Women (Cambridge, 1994), guest-editor of Domestic/Tragedy (SAQ, 1997), and England's First Family of Writers: Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Mary Shelley (Johns Hopkins, 2004) and of articles on Romantic theatre, literature and radical culture, and literary modes of attachment. Elisabeth Weber is a professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her books include Verfolgung und Trauma: Zu Emmanuel Levinas' Autrement qu'etre ou au-dela de l'essence (Passagen Verlag, 1990), Das Vergessen(e): Anamnesen des Undarstellbaren, coeditor (Turia and Kant, 1997), and Questioning Judaism (Stanford, 2004), a collection of interviews with Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Emmanuel Levinas, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, and others. She has also edited several works by Jacques Derrida. Her edited volume Living Together: Jacques Derrida's Communities of Violence and Peace is forthcoming from Fordham University Press.
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