Torture Research

Learning Torture Methods

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Rejali (2006; forthcoming 2007) has traced “lineages” of torture methods from one country to another, showing how torturers learn specific methods of torture from the torturers of other countries. The finding that torturers learn methods from one another implies that training in methods is needed for torturers to do their jobs. In case studies of torturers, researchers have found that even when torturers did not undergo extensive psychological training and preparation, they still received brief on the job training in how to actually do torture (Huggins 2002, Conroy 2000, Crelinsten 1995). It is not clear whether individuals commonly improvise torture methods on their own in the absence of this training. Zimbardo’s experiment showed that American college students could be creative in their improvisation of punishments and humiliations, so it may be that soldiers are helped by training in torture methods but are capable of improvising methods when necessary even if not specifically trained.

Conroy, John. 2000. Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Crelinsten, Ronald D. “In Their Own Words: The World of the Torturer.”  In Crelinsten, Ronald D., and Alex P. Schmid, eds.  The Politics of Pain: Torturers and Their Masters (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1995), 19-34.

Huggins, Martha K.  2002. “State Violence in Brazil: The Professional Morality of Torturers.” Pages 141-151 in Susan Rotker, ed., Citizens of Fear: Urban Violence in Latin America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Rejali, Darius. 2006. “Torture and Democracy.” Paper presented at the 2006 convention of the American Sociological Association.

Rejali, Darius. 2007. Torture and Democracy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

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Written by tortureresearch

January 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm

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