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Donatella Di Cesare

ISBN: 978-1-509-52437-2

Jul 2018, Polity

180 pages




Torture is not as universally condemned as it once was. After 9/11, its apologists could use the ‘war on terror’ to justify a practice that has in fact never fallen completely out of use, in democracies no less than under dictatorships. From Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib prisons to the death of Giulio Regeni, countless recent cases have shocked public opinion. But if we want to defend the human dignity that torture violates, simple indignation is not enough.

In this penetrating text, Donatella Di Cesare seeks insight from philosophers, playwrights, directors and poets to provide a critical perspective on torture in all its dimensions, culminating in a wholly original ‘phenomenology of torture’. She seeks to capture the peculiarity of an extreme, systematic, methodical violence. This is a violence where the tormentor calculates and measures out pain so that he can hold off the victim’s death, allowing him to continue to exercise his sovereign power. For the victim, being tortured is like experiencing his own death even while he is still alive. It is also a violence inextricably linked with power. Torture is a threat wherever the defenceless find themselves in the hands of the strong: in prisons, on psychiatric wards, in migrant camps, in nursing homes, in centres for the disabled, and in institutions for minors.

This impassioned book equips us to address critically the many forms of torture which continue to occur across our societies today. It will appeal to students and scholars of philosophy and political theory, as well as to anyone committed to defending human rights as universal and inviolable.

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