CRIC Visiting Scholar J. L. Austin Publishes Article on 'Torture and the Material-Semiotic Networks of Violence Across Borders' – University of Copenhagen

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22 February 2016

CRIC Visiting Scholar J. L. Austin Publishes Article on 'Torture and the Material-Semiotic Networks of Violence Across Borders'

CRIC visiting scholar Jonathan Luke Austin of the Graduate Institute, Geneva publishes the article 'Torture and the Material-Semiotic Networks of Violence Across Borders' in the peer reviewed journal International Political Sociology

Abstract:

The intimately local violence of torture is, simultaneously and increasingly, a global phenomenon. This paper explores a transnational convergence in the local morphologies of torture practices across time, space, and state-type through an inquiry into its global ontologies. Drawing on the insights of Actor-Network Theory, the papers introduces a material-semiotic mode of inquiry into violence in order to locate the (re)emergence and (re)convergence of torture practices within a hitherto unnoticed space of violence constituted by the circulation of violence- enabling knowledges, visual and textual inscriptions, human persons, and non-human material objects. This analysis is based on evidence gathered from interviews conducted with Syrian victims and perpetrators of torture, alongside primary and secondary sources detailing torture in other localities, which stresses the importance of tracing local instances of torture through to these material-semiotic networks of violence across borders. Concluding with a theory of the spatio-temporal oscillation of violent practices, which highlights the analytical limits of both the constructivist literature on norms and the decisionism of literatures on political exceptionalism, the paper argues that its mode of inquiry provides novel and important insights for comprehending the stubbornness of the “global crisis” in torture that Amnesty International has described for over forty years.