Torture is unique in the annals of human violence. The practice was recognized in the pre-modern world as especially reprehensible and was for hundreds of years intellectually categorized beyond the bounds of civilized behavior. Yet the twentieth century witnessed a proliferation of torture used by states against enemies internal and external. From Latin America and Greece to Israel and the United States, torture has become a feature of the contemporary global landscape. More troubling, torture has been adopted by a handful of liberal democracies—states that ostensibly set a higher ethical standard and claim to espouse values inimical to brutal violence. What are we to make of these developments? This course takes an historical approach to the question and practice of torture, with a large part of the course dedicated to its modern reemergence. We will explore original disquisitions, oratory, reports, legal cases, and memos on the use of torture in various contexts throughout history. We will also discuss influential ethical and social psychological explanations of regulated state violence as well as the depiction of torture in popular culture, from the Marquis de Sade to modern “torture porn.”

Required Text

  • Lisa Hajjar, Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights (New York: Routledge, 2012).

Course Plan

Week 1: What is Torture?

Week 2: Historicizing Torture

  • Lisa Hajjar, “Why Are We Still Talking About Torture?” in Torture (Routledge: New York, 2012).
  • H. Carr, “The Historian and His Facts,” in What is History? (Penguin: New York, 1961).
  • Paul Kenny, “The Meaning of Torture,” Polity (42): 131-155.

Week 3: Torture in Ancient Greece

  • Lisa Hajjar, “Torture’s Past” in Torture (Routledge: New York, 2012).
  • Edward Peters, “A Delicate and Dangerous Business,” in Torture (University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1985).
  • Andocides, “On the Mysteries,” in Antiphon and Andocides, trans. Michael Gagarin and Douglas M. MacDowell (University of Texas Press: Austin, 1998), excerpts.
  • Aristophanes, The Frogs, excerpts.

Week 4: Torture and Christianity

  • Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum, excerpts.
  • Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia: New York, 2004 ), excerpts.
  • Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (Yale University Press: New Haven, 1998), excerpts.
  • Ariel Glucklich, “The Tortures of the Inquisition and the Invention of Modern Guilt,” in Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul (Oxford University Press: New York, 2001).

Week 5: Torture Fantasies

  • Marquis de Sade, Justine (Oxford University Press: New York, 2012), excerpts.
  • Joseph Berest, “Report on a Case of Sadism,” Journal of Sex Research 6 (3): 210-219.
  • Niklaus Largier, In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal (Zone Books: New York, 2007), excerpts.
  • Larissa Tracy, “Laughing at Pain: The Comic Uses of Torture and Brutality,” in Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature (D.S. Brewer: Cambridge, 2012).

Week 6: Colonialism and Torture

  • Jean Paul Sartre, Introduction to The Question (1958)
  • David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (W.W. Norton: New York, 2005), excerpts.
  • Darius Rejali, “Torture Makes the Man,” South Central Review 24 (1): 151-169.
  • Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave (SoHo Books: New York, 2013 [1853]), excerpts.
  • Watch The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Week 7: Modern Torture

  • Lisa Hajjar, “Modern Torture” in Torture (Routledge: New York, 2012).
  • Christopher Einolf, “The Fall and Rise of Torture: A Comparative and Historical Analysis,” Sociological Theory 25 (2): 101-121.
  • Amnesty International, Torture in Greece (1975), excerpts.
  • Case of Ireland v. The United Kingdom (1976)

Week 8: Liberal Democracy and Torture

  • Lisa Hajjar, “Torture and Rights” in Torture (Routledge: New York, 2012).
  • United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
  • Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy (Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2007), pp. 30-66.
  • Stephen Lukes, “Liberal Democratic Torture,” British Journal of Political Science (36): 1-16.

Week 9: Torture(d) Ethics

  • David Luban, “Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb,” Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works (2005) Paper 148.
  • Henry Shue, “Torture,” in Torture: A Collection (Oxford University Press: New York, 2004).
  • Michael Walzer, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” in Torture: A Collection (Oxford University Press: New York, 2004).
  • Jean Bekthe Elshtain, Reflections on the Problem of “Dirty Hands,” in Torture: A Collection (Oxford University Press: New York, 2004).
  • Corey Robin, “Protocols of Machismo,” The London Review of Books, May 19, 2005.

Week 10: Torture and Military Occupation: Israel/Palestine

  • UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding Observations on the Second to Fourth Periodic Reports of Israel” (2013).
  • B’Tselem and HaMoked, Kept in the Dark: Detainee Abuse in Israeli Prisons (2010).
  • High Court of Israel, Judgment Concerning the Legality of the General Security Service’s Interrogation Methods, 38 I.L.M. 1471, 1481 (1999).
  • Lisa Hajjar, “Inside Israel’s Military Courts,” Counterpunch, October 29, 2007.

Week 11: Torture After 9/11

  • Lisa Hajjar, “What’s Wrong With Torture?” in Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights (New York: Routledge, 2012).
  • Alan Dershowitz, “The Case For Torture Warrants,” Reuters, September 7, 2011.
  • Dave Gilson, “Why Am I in Cuba?: Excerpts From Guantanamo Military Tribunal Transcripts,” Mother Jones, June 11, 2006.
  • Aziz Huq, “Extraordinary Rendition and the Wages of Hypocrisy,” World Policy Journal 23 (1): 25-35.
  • George W. Bush, Decision Points (Broadway Books: New York, 2011), excerpts.

Week 12: Abu Ghraib and the Torture Memos

  • David Cole, The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable (The New Press: New York, 2009), excerpts.
  • Seymour Hersh, “Torture at Abu Ghraib,” The New Yorker, May 10, 2004.
  • The Taguba Report
  • Mary Ann Tetreault, “The Sexual Politics of Abu Ghraib: Hegemony, Spectacle, and the Global War on Terror,” NWSA Journal 18 (3): 33-50
  • Jeremy Waldron, “Torture and Positive Law: Jurisprudence For the White House,” Columbia Law Review 105 (6): 1681-1750.
  • Watch Standard Operating Procedure (2008)

Week 13: Torture in Popular Culture

  • Steve Jones, Torture Porn: Popular Horror After Saw (Palgrave MacMillan: London, 2013), excerpts.
  • Jason Middleton, “The Subject of Torture: Regarding the Pain of Americans in Hostel,” Cinema Journal 49 (4): 1-24.
  • Jane Mayer, “Whatever it Takes: The Politics of the Man Behind 24,” The New Yorker, February 19, 2007.
  • Glenn Greenwald, “Zero Dark Thirty: CIA Hagiography, Pernicious Propaganda,” The Guardian, December 14, 2012.
  • Watch Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Week 14: Tortured Futures

  • Lisa Hajjar, “Enforcing the Right Not To Be Tortured”