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Slave Flight, Slave Torture, and the State

Nineteenth-Century French Guiana

Miranda Spieler

This article explores the relationship between law and violence against slaves in nineteenth-century French Guiana. Drawing on unpublished sources from the colonial archives, Spieler examines the linked problems of slave abuse and slave flight to understand the evolving character of the French imperial state in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. In the early nineteenth century, after the abolition of the slave trade, imperial administrators in Guiana contested the proprietary privileges of masters and lay claim to the right to punish slaves. During the 1820s and 1830s, slave testimony—especially the testimony of abused slaves (inside and outside the courtroom)—became unexpectedly central to this dispute between masters and administrators about the source of legitimate violence and the meaning of imperial sovereignty.

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Ethics and Violence

Simone de Beauvoir, Djamila Boupacha, and the Algerian War

Judith Surkis

This article situates Simone de Beauvoir's involvement in the case of Djamila Boupacha, an FLN militant who was tortured by the French Army in 1960, in the context of the repeated revelations of torture in course of the Algerian War. Drawing on Beauvoir's writings on ethics and other contemporary denunciations of torture, the essay illuminates how Beauvoir worked to overcome wide-spread public “indifference.” By focusing public attention on the Army's sexually degrading treatment of Boupacha, Beauvoir figured torture as a source of feminine and feminizing national shame.

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Jeremy Ekberg

Because Sartre's theatre is one of representation and authenticity, plays like The Victors offer Sartrean philosophical explorations of subjects pushed to the limits of existence by torture and oppressive social edicts. It is in extreme situations that a subject most clearly exercises or fails to exercise his freedom and therefore his authenticity. But Sartre's interest in a complete explication of this process wanes before he fully outlines his project of self formation, which leaves the present paper to prove: (1) the unattainability of any final or permanent authenticity, since each subject represents itself alternately in authentic and inauthentic ways and because the representations of a single subject are constantly in flux; (2) the primacy of representation as the force by which the self is formed and authenticity achieved or avoided; and (3) the criteria for the assessment of authenticity levels and how these processes come to light in plays like The Victors.

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The Sudden Memory of Torture

The Algerian War in French Discourse, 2000-2001

William B. Cohen

From the beginning of the Algerian War, the central issue for most of its critics was the use of torture. When confronted with evidence of torture, French governments during the war claimed that it was the result of aberrant behavior by individual soldiers or police officers. Yet, it was used systematically. Beginning in 1955 every regiment of the French army had an interrogation officer attached to it whose job it was to gain information by all means, including torture. Special training schools were established instructing the officers on “interrogation” techniques. Hundreds of thousands of Algerians were tortured during the war. These facts have been known for years and have been most recently documented in a dissertation based on the French army archives.

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Laura A. Sparks

Relying on select US government Torture Memos, this article develops the term “surveillance time” to highlight the ways in which surveillance practices, in this case within the material confines of post-9/11 detention centers, come to threaten humans’ subjectivities through temporal disruption and manipulation. While surveillance has lately been understood in digital terms, such as in corporations’ data-mining practices and in technologies like facial-recognition software, we should not neglect its material, embodied dimensions. Surveillance time ultimately asks us to reconsider how monitoring and information-harvesting practices blur the boundaries between human bodies and data. Attention to the relationship between torture and surveillance also opens up new possibilities for understanding the now-ubiquitous monitoring strategies integrated into everyday life.

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Will Gartside

Torture porn's crowning achievements, as identified by Gregory A. Burris (2010), are the Saw and Hostel series. He argues that the Saw series represents a puritanical mind-set running amok, while the Hostel movies reflect a culture struggling to come to terms with the horrors of Abu Ghraib. This article challenges this position. It identifies thematic patterns within the Saw and Hostel films to demonstrate how the images of violence on display throughout both series tend to reinforce, rather than subvert, the popularly held belief that the Abu Ghraib scandal represented mere abuse, as opposed to torture. The article shows how these films trivialize and rationalize torture and the roles that sex and gender play in this process.

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Bruce Lincoln

The point of departure for this article is a description of punitive practices reported to have been employed in Achaemenian Persia around 400 BCE. On closer examination, what appears to be an example of sadistic torture proves to be a judiciary ordeal constructed in such a way as to convert the accused's body (and bodily processes) into conclusive evidence of his guilt and, simultaneously, to confirm imperial ideology. This episode provides the basis for reconsidering events at Abu Ghraib prison, where, it is argued, low-level American GIs obsessively enacted a finite set of scenarios in a desperate attempt to make their captives' bodies confirm arguments used to justify the war in Iraq as a struggle against low, dark, craven, perverse, and corrupt beings dismissable as 'terrorists'.

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Jeremy Rich

In April 1884, a scandal erupted among colonial officials stationed in the French Central African colony of Gabon. Alexis d'Alexis, a customs officer, and Faucher, a member of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza's third expedition into the Gabonese interior, accused one another of abuses against Africans. D'Alexis declared that Faucher had tortured a Senegalese sailor, and Faucher accused D'Alexis of engaging in sexual relationships with six African boys and men on the island. Although the charges never went beyond the colonial administration's internal correspondence, the allegations of aberrant conduct and the inquiry that resulted offer a fascinating glimpse of understandings of masculinity, internal friction, and the monitoring of intimate behavior within the French colonial administration in the Scramble for Africa. This case points to the fractured nature of state regulation of sexuality in the French empire, as well as the ways different officials defined and deployed constructions of abnormal masculinity as weapons in disputes.

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The Torturer's Horse

What Kinds of Witness Does Literature Bear?

Beatrice Clarke

What follows is a personal exploration of some of the ways in which the language of literature can embody and exploit our complex, ambivalent attitudes to victim, perpetrator and bystander. I want to begin with W.H. Auden’s poem, Musée des Beaux Arts (1938), which is the source of my title.

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The Tortured Signifier

Satire, Censorship, and the Textual History of Troilus and Cressida

Roger Stritmatter

Why does the 1609 quarto of Troilus and Cressida exist in two states, each with a distinct title page (S1 and S2, Figure One)? Surely this textual doubling is the most conspicuous illustration of W.W. Greg’s admonition that Troilus is a ‘play of puzzles, in respect of its textual history no less than its interpretation’. Despite more than a century of speculation, contemporary criticism seems no closer to a satisfying solution. Traditionally, answers have focused on hypothetical market-driven preferences of the publishers, Richard Bonian and Henry Whalley: S1’s reference to performance at the Globe theatre is false because it was ‘unlikely that this play was ever performed to an audience at the Globe’ and the preface to S2 constitutes ‘an assurance that the play was designed for some private occasion or company’. Or the publishers supposed that having two different states of the title page would incite publicity and ‘stimulate sales’, or one publisher, for some unidentified reason, preferred one title page, and the other, another. Or ‘they decided to avoid a copyright dispute with His Majesty’s Servants by leaving them unnamed either in the title or the epistle’, or ‘they discovered after printing was under way that the play had held the stage only briefly but had attracted a sophisticated following’. No wonder that William Godshalk has recently chastised Troilus critics for substituting unverifiable speculation for sober interpretation of factual evidence, encouraging a disciplined return to a ‘facts first, then interpretation’ inquiry model.