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Transnational Torture

Transnational Torture: Law, Violence, and State Power in the United States and India

Jinee Lokaneeta
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 301
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  • Book Info
    Transnational Torture
    Book Description:

    Evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay beg the question: has the war on terror forced liberal democracies to rethink their policies and laws against torture? Transnational Torture focuses on the legal and political discourses on torture in India and the United States--two common-law based constitutional democracies--to theorize the relationship between law, violence, and state power in liberal democracies.Analyzing about one hundred landmark Supreme Court cases on torture in India and the United States, memos and popular imagery of torture, Jinee Lokaneeta compellingly demonstrates that even before recent debates on the use of torture in the war on terror, the laws of interrogation were much more ambivalent about the infliction of excess pain and suffering than most political and legal theorists have acknowledged. Rather than viewing the recent policies on interrogation as anomalous or exceptional, Lokaneeta effectively argues that efforts to accommodate excess violence--a constantly negotiated process--are long standing features of routine interrogations in both the United States and India, concluding that the infliction of excess violence is more central to democratic governance than is acknowledged in western jurisprudence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6511-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Do the Ghosts of Leviathan Linger On? Law, Violence, and Torture in Liberal Democracies
    (pp. 1-33)

    The 2009 Oscar hit was a British/Indian film titledSlumdog Millionaireabout a boy from a Mumbai slum who manages to win twenty million rupees in a game show, thereby enacting a true “rag to riches” story.¹ Less talked about is the framing of this incredibly popular film, which provides an insightful comment on the discourse on torture in contemporary India. In the very first scene of the film, one observes a constable beating up the boy while the senior police official calmly watches, both assuming that the boy has been winning the game show by cheating. Interestingly enough, news...

  5. 1 Law’s Struggle with Violence: Ambivalence in the “Routine” Jurisprudence of Interrogations in the United States
    (pp. 34-67)

    In the post-9/11 context, when a debate ensued in the media about whether torture could be used against suspected terrorists in the United States, even the debate itself was characterized as a radical break from previous eras. When Jonathan Alter wrote immediately after the 9/11 attacks that “in this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to torture,” the responses to his article reflected the prevailing sentiment against torture.² Readers wrote passionately that contemplating torture is similar to “going back into the middle ages,” is “traitorous to the ideals that keep America on the high moral...

  6. 2 “Being Helplessly Civilized Leaves Us at the Mercy of the Beast”: Post-9/11 Discourses on Torture in the United States
    (pp. 68-107)

    The hooded Iraqi man standing on a box with his outstretched arms tied to electric wires, the goggled and muffled prisoners at Guantánamo, and the former U.S. army reservist Lynndie England smilingly pointing to the naked Iraqi detainees are just some of the iconic images that have shocked the world in recent years.¹ Yet much before these pictures were released in 2004, there were comments by U.S. state officials about the need for unprecedented actions in the post-9/11 context. For instance, Cofer Black, the CIA’s former counterterrorism chief, in his testimony before the U.S. Congress, said in 2002, “There was...

  7. 3 Torture in the TV Show 24: Circulation of Meanings
    (pp. 108-129)

    In this chapter, I analyze the popular imagery of torture in the U.S. TV show 24 to illustrate how the popular and the official legal and political debates on torture inform and constitute each other. In other words, I point to a circulation of meaning of torture across all the different sites. I argue that the popular imagery of torture, which emphasizes physical brutality, legitimizes a narrow definition of torture that is visible in official discourses, and that the official and popular discourses collectively use sanitized and routinized terminology to make less severe forms of violence seem ordinary and acceptable....

  8. 4 Jurisprudence on Torture and Interrogations in India
    (pp. 130-165)

    Like any liberal democracy, the Indian state claims either that torture does not occur in India or that it is never authorized as a policy. The Indian state backs this claim by pointing to the strong legal safeguards against the use of torture. Yet in India the number of cases of custodial torture and deaths is extremely high, to the point where torture is a subject of serious concern for human rights scholars and activists. The National Human Rights Commission (hereafter NHRC), a statutory institution created under the Protection of Human Rights Act (1993), recorded 1,597 incidents of custodial deaths...

  9. 5 Contemporary States of Exception: Extraordinary Laws and Interrogation in India
    (pp. 166-198)

    On December 13, 2001, the Indian Parliament was attacked by five heavily armed “Islamic militants” while the Parliament was in session.¹ All five attackers and nine security men were killed in the firing between the two sides. This attack on the Indian Parliament is politically significant for a number of reasons. Since it occurred three months after the September 11, 2001, U.S. attacks, the Indian state represented it as part of the global threat to liberal democratic institutions.² It also became an opportunity for the state to pass a new antiterrorism law, namely, the previously mentioned Prevention of Terrorism Act...

  10. 6 Conclusion: Unraveling the Exception: Torture in Liberal Democracies.
    (pp. 199-208)

    One of the primary themes of this study is the status of torture in liberal democracies or, more specifically, the notion of impermissibility of torture in democracies. In his speech on Afghanistan on December 2, 2009, President Obama said,

    And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values—for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home—which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantánamo Bay.¹

    The question is, since President...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 209-270)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 271-280)
  13. Index
    (pp. 281-292)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 293-293)