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.
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'.
Nineteenth-Century French Guiana
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 Drawing on unpublished sources from the colonial archives, Spieler examines the linked problems of slave abuse and slave flight to understand the evolving character of the French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.
Simone de Beauvoir, Djamila Boupacha, and the Algerian War
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.
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.
The Case of Basra and the Anthropology of Excrement
In this article I demonstrate that issues surrounding excrement in Iraq intersect sites where power and order, the state and its absence, and everyday moral order and its erasure become painfully evident. In the first piece of ethnography, I recount daily walks taken with an informant through the war-torn streets of Basra (Iraq), where in some places human excrement fills the streets. The second part of the article pursues the same theme in the context of a prison, where the lack of toilet facilities becomes a physical and symbolic means of torture.
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.
Both the slasher movie and its more recent counterpart the “torture porn“ film centralize graphic depictions of violence. This article inspects the nature of these portrayals by examining a motif commonly found in the cinema of homicide, dubbed here the “pure moment of murder“: that is, the moment in which two characters' bodies adjoin onscreen in an instance of graphic violence. By exploring a number of these incidents (and their various modes of representation) in American horror films ranging from Psycho (1960) to Saw VI (2009), the article aims to expound how these images of slaughter demonstrate (albeit in an augmented, hyperbolic manner) a number of long-standing problems surrounding selfhood that continue to fuel philosophical discussion. The article argues that the visual adjoining of victim and killer onscreen echoes the conundrum that in order to attain identity, the individual requires and yet simultaneously repudiates the Other.
Robert L. Paquette
Most historians, even specialists in the field of slavery, know little about the largest and bloodiest slave insurrection in United States history. The revolt broke out in a sugar-producing region in the Territory of Orleans in 1811, one year before Louisiana's statehood. A disciplined army of rebels composed of men and women, African-born slaves and creole slaves, mulattoes and blacks, skilled slaves and field hands, marched down the east bank of the Mississippi River in quickstep toward New Orleans. Stunned eyewitnesses observe slaves in military formation with drums beating and flags waving. At least some of the leaders of the revolt were uniformed, mounted on horseback, and wielded rearms. Charles, a mulatto slave driver allegedly from Saint-Domingue (Haiti), led the uprising. The 1811 insurrection raises big questions about the causes and content of slave rebellion. Why did the insurrection break out when and where it did? How were slaves of different types from different plantations mobilized to revolt? Was the Louisiana insurrection influenced by the slave revolution in Saint-Domingue? Or were the causes of the revolt local? Why did free-people of color assist whites in suppressing the movement? What were the goals of the rebels? Summary justice led to the grisly executions and mutilations of scores of slaves. Did torture and terror have the desired results for the master class?
The Faucher-d'Alexis Affair of 1884
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.