Chapter

Waterboarding: Political and Sacred Torture

Stephen F. Eisenman

in Speaking about Torture

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242245
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823242283 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823242245.003.0010
Waterboarding: Political and Sacred Torture

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This chapter extends arguments that Eisenman has made elsewhere regarding the “Abu Ghraib effect,” which is the public’s desensitization to images of torture because of the long history of artistic representations of it. In particular, it explains the American public’s seeming acceptance of the use of waterboarding in the struggle against terrorism by both highlighting how visual representations of torture across the centuries depict torture victims as accepting, even participating in, their denigration and by suggesting that longstanding depictions of the “water cure” evoke images of religious sanctification that make waterboarding appear no more threatening than full immersion adult baptism. A concluding section considers practices of art that resist or otherwise seek to undo this desensitization to images of torture.

Keywords: Abu Ghraib effect; Desensitization; Waterboarding; Pathos formule; Baptism; Michael Mukasey; HUMINT; Emotional love approach

Chapter.  4075 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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