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Ritual, Media, and Conflict$
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Ronald L. Grimes, Ute Husken, Udo Simon, and Eric Venbrux

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199735235

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735235.001.0001

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What’s at Stake in Torture?

What’s at Stake in Torture?

(p.223) 8 What’s at Stake in Torture?
Ritual, Media, and Conflict

Werner Binder

Tom F. Driver

Barry Stephenson

Oxford University Press

Drawing on the Abu Ghraib scandal and the photographs that helped precipitate it, the chapter discusses torture as a form of ritualization calculated to forge an enemy and consolidate absolute power. Torture, it shows, bears similarities to forms of initiation, but it is actually a systematic elaboration of cruelty for political purposes. To study torture as ritual, the chapter argues, undercuts any view of torture as merely, or primarily, a technique of interrogation. Rather, it is a means of social control that transgresses the very rule of law that it supposedly upholds. Assuming an explicitly ethical stance, the chapter argues that concerted opposition to torture is not only possible but necessary. Opposition, it says, can be successful only if supported by alternative liturgies aimed at building up the social body.

Keywords:   ritual, media, conflict, torture, terrorism

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