Torture Research

Interpretive & Theoretical Studies

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These studies work outside of the scientific paradigm of cause and effect, and instead provide interpretive and theoretical analyses of torture.

Asad, Talal. 1983. “Notes on Body Pain and Truth in Medieval Christian Ritual.”  Economy and Society 12(3), 287-327.

Asad, Talal.  1996. “On Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment.”  Social Research 63(4), 1081-1109. 

Cesereanu, Ruxandra. 2006. “An Overview of Torture in the Twentieth Century.” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 13, 120-143. 
            Author’s abstract: The present essay focuses on political torture during the twentieth century. It takes a multidisciplinary approach, because it entails insights from history, politics, ideology, anthropology,  psychology and literature. The aim of the present essay is to discuss the relation between “Classical” torture (in the past centuries) and “Modern” torture (in the twentieth century), analyzing the phenomena in a comparative perspective and paying attention to the hidden and unconscious motives behind historical facts. What I am interested in is the mechanism by which, in the twentieth century, torture has been reintroduced particularly for political prisoners – that means torture for ideas and conscience, torture as a technique of power and not merely as a technique of punishment. What torture destroys first is the dignity and privacy of the victim; only then does it destroy the victim’s freedom and integrity. For this reason, every torture is an act of rape, even a symbolic one. I mean this in psychological terms, not as a demonstration of feminist vocabulary. Every touching of the victim’s body is rape, emphasizing the “virility” of the torturer. First of all, the torturer wants to become a master of his victim’s body, and only later, a master of the tortured person’s mind. I include imagination in the concept of torture, imagination being one of the tools of the act of torturing. In torture, imagination becomes, in my demonstration, a never-ending weapon.

Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford University Press. 
           Scarry states that although torture involves interrogation, its purpose is not to obtain information.  Instead, torture aims at destroying the victim’s world, self, and voice.  The interrogation functions to destroy the victim’s voice, not to gather information.  The torturer then uses everyday objects like walls, floor, and ceiling, and everyday language, to associate the torture with everyday reality.  Torture also breaks down the barrier between interior and exterior worlds, and makes one feel that one’s own body is the enemy.

Shapiro, David. 2003. “The Tortured, not the Torturers, are Ashamed.” Social Research 70 (4), 1131-1148. 
Sironi, Francoise, and Raphaelle Branche. 2002.  “Torture and the Borders of Humanity.” International Social Science Journal 54(4), 539-548.


Written by tortureresearch

January 27, 2010 at 8:12 pm

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