What’s at Stake in Torture?

Werner Binder, Tom F. Driver and Barry Stephenson

in Ritual, Media, and Conflict

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199735235
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895175 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

What’s at Stake in Torture?

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Drawing on the Abu Ghraib scandal and the photographs that helped precipitate it, the chapter discusses torture as a form of ritualization calculated to forge an enemy and consolidate absolute power. Torture, it shows, bears similarities to forms of initiation, but it is actually a systematic elaboration of cruelty for political purposes. To study torture as ritual, the chapter argues, undercuts any view of torture as merely, or primarily, a technique of interrogation. Rather, it is a means of social control that transgresses the very rule of law that it supposedly upholds. Assuming an explicitly ethical stance, the chapter argues that concerted opposition to torture is not only possible but necessary. Opposition, it says, can be successful only if supported by alternative liturgies aimed at building up the social body.

Keywords: ritual; media; conflict; torture; terrorism

Chapter.  14006 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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