AHRI/Scottish Centre for Global History 2018/19 Research Seminar
“Torture and the Global State of Exception”
Deana Heath, University of Liverpool
14 November, Fairlie Room, Main Library, 4.30-6.00 pm
All are invited
The torture regime initiated by the United States in Iraq and other contexts in the aftermath of 9/11 was spurred by a spectacular moment of boundary transgression that, in fracturing the external borders of the United States, made manifest a new imperial, biopolitical and exceptional global order. Such an order has witnessed not only the escalation of new forms of violence but a stunning disregard for the lives of what Sarah Ahmad terms “other others”, primarily Muslims, vast numbers of whom have been reduced to what Giorgio Agamben terms bare life and untold numbers killed with impunity. The new global order has also, however, been marked by the scandalous resurgence of an older and more familiar form of violence, namely torture, which instead of being a ‘barbaric’ remnant of the west’s recent past and an aberrant aspect of the present has revealed itself to be central to the manufacture of sovereignty in liberal democratic states. But while in the contemporary era the exception has become the norm, this does not mean that it is a new phenomenon. Nor can its genealogy be traced solely to Europe. The emergence of legal states of exception can instead be traced to Europe’s colonies. Beginning with an exploration of the exceptional nature of the Abu Ghraib prison in occupied Iraq and the sorts of violence this made possible, the talk will go on to consider the wider and more intimate relationship between torture, colonialism and states of exception.