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

ISBN-13: 9780823242252
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 09/12/2012
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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’être ou au-delà 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-François 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.

Table of Contents

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 Görling: 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 Améry 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 Détournement
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 Grüny: 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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