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Flogging Others

Flogging Others: Corporal Punishment and Cultural Identity from Antiquity to the Present

G. Geltner
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  • Book Info
    Flogging Others
    Book Description:

    Corporal punishment is often considered a relic of the Western past, a set of thinly veiled barbaric practices largely abandoned in the process of civilization. As G. Geltner argues, however, the infliction of bodily pain was not necessarily typical for earlier societies, nor has it vanished from modern penal theory, policy, and practice. To the contrary, corporal punishment still thrives today thanks to its capacity to define otherness efficiently and unambiguously. Challenging a number of common myths and misconceptions about physical punishment's importance over the centuries,Flogging Othersoffers a new perspective on modernization and Western identity.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2594-2
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 9-20)

    Corporal punishment is an evocative, almost self-explanatory term. But like other concepts with powerful and immediate connotations, it is poorly understood and rarely interrogated. Outside academia, and often within it, corporal punishment is the subject of simplistic analyses and misinformed expositions. The concept itself is ill-defined, its comparative history (as traced by historians of punishment) neglected, and there is little insight into its functions and meaning in a given cultural context, that is, beyond the exigencies of a legal or physical event. There are several explanations for this state of affairs, some obvious, others less so, as I will try...

  2. 1. Historical and Anthropological Approaches
    (pp. 21-28)

    Corporal punishment is a misleadingly familiar term, in that it suggests a group of penal measures that is distinct from others. In practice, few punishments are not corporal. That is to say, most licit penalties – now as in the past – can involve bodily damage, brief or lasting physical alteration, or simply mild, acute, or chronic pain, even if they are not ostensibly violent or designed to be painful or generally consequential to an offender’s body.²⁶ The slippery slope can begin from auspicious places. In the Netherlands, for instance, recent legislation obligates DUI offenders above a certain category to install so-called...

  3. 2 Punishing Bodies
    (pp. 29-82)

    Evidence for the use of corporal punishment – flogging, branding, mutilation, dismemberment, beating, stretching, and other forms of intentional physical alteration, discomfort and pain, both brief and lasting – emerge from a very broad range of sources. These include texts, archaeological remains, and figurative art, from excavated Chinese oracle bones to digitally archived videos on the World Wide Web. The present chapter and main section of this book will trace some continuities and discontinuities attested by these diverse sources, within and across a number of cultures, regions, and religions, and with a strong focus on the Western world. It is not meant...

  4. Conclusion
    (pp. 83-84)

    In 2007, the Malaysian government released a crime-fighting video showcasing its treatment of major offenders. The culprit in question was a convicted drug dealer, who was sentenced to long-term incarceration and twenty blows with arotan, a punishment illustrating how a supposedly staple premodern and an emblematic modern mode of punishment continue to coexist.²⁰⁴ The images of the caning session are vivid and disturbing. With effort, I watched through to the fourth blow, but other viewers evidently found the experience less taxing, judging by the nearly 400,000 views it has logged so far. Either way, scrolling down the hundreds of...