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Torture's In/visibility

Viterbo, H (2019) 'Torture's In/visibility.' In: Molloy, S and Olson, LW, (eds.) Torture, Law, and Human Rights. Brill. (In Press)

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Abstract

Real-time photographic and video documentation f torture tends to be privileged over other visual materials, which are usually seen as lacking substantial evidentiary value. The reason is that, in order to qualify as good evidence of torture, visual images are normally required to provide viewers with a sense of simply ‘witnessing reality’, while suppressing all traces of the mediation (and representation) at work. Using recent cases and images concerning three countries’ use of or complicity in torture – the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel – this chapter illustrates some key pitfalls of this prevalent evidentiary paradigm, and puts forward alternative ways for looking at and thinking about visual representations of torture. The privileging of photographs and videos, it is argued, has facilitated the dismissal of other evidence of torture in their absence, and also tends to draw attention away from the broader social structures and policies beyond the specific torture incidents shown in photographs or videos. Among the factors left outside the frame are political and legal processes and mechanisms that operate to conceal torture from both the general public and detainees while at the same time rendering these detainees hyper-visible to the state. In an attempt to open up alternative possibilities for engaging with visual representations of state torture, this chapter argues that images such as sketches and re-enactment pictures gain a particular evidentiary potential precisely through their mediating character – the potential for not only documenting torture, but exposing and problematising its in/visibility. By rethinking the evidentiary potential and pitfalls of torture images and reinterpreting what invisibility does and means, this chapter thus seeks to see beyond what might appear visible and imaginable regarding state torture.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JX International law
K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KD England and Wales
K Law > KF United States Federal Law
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Law, School of
Depositing User: Hedi Viterbo
Date Deposited: 04 May 2017 12:13
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2018 10:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/19541

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