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Title: "What can be infinitely destroyed is what can infinitely survive" : literary and filmic representations of political torture from Algiers to Guantánamo
Author: Adams, Alex
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis takes the post-9/11 Anglo-American torture debate as the territory for its analysis of the multiple and overlapping ways that cultural representations are implicated in political discourses regarding the practice of political torture by Western liberal democracies in the twenty-first century. Firstly, it makes the historical-political claim that the post-9/11 torture debate reveals the continuing existence and influence not only of colonial discourses and representations but of colonial political constellations and colonial forms of violence. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s work on the state of exception, I argue that despite claims of the newness of the post-Cold War geopolitical paradigm, political torture in the twenty-first century takes familiar concentrationary and disciplinary forms. Further, specific colonial discourses continue to frame contemporary debates about political torture; using the Algerian War of Independence as a lens, the thesis demonstrates this continuity through original readings of The Centurions (1960), The Battle of Algiers (1966), and The Little Soldier (1960/63). The dominant way that torture has been discussed in the context of the post-9/11 Global War on Terrorism is in terms that justify or normalise it. This thesis reads the revitalisation of colonial discourses in the second series of 24 (2002-3) as evidence of this. Further, it argues that anti-torture human rights texts such as Rendition (2007) have provided inadequate resistance to justificatory discourse. Nonetheless, narratives that successfully oppose political torture are possible, and this thesis sketches the beginnings of a canon of them: drawing on the phenomenological ethics of Emmanuel Levinas to perform readings of representations of Abu Ghraib – Standard Operating Procedure (2008) – and Guantánamo Bay – The Road to Guantánamo (2006), Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom (2004) and Guantánamo (2004) – the project explores the ways that ethical address, testimony, and an activist focus on facts can produce meaningfully resistant anti-torture narratives.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available