Torture as a Political Technology
This is an impactful cross-disciplinary research into the use of torture as a political technology, managed by Dr Merav Amir (PI), in collaboration with Professor Hagar Kotef of SOAS and with an international civil society organization (the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel - PCATI).
Events of the last two decades show that torture cannot be regarded as a relic of the past, underscoring the importance of investigating its operation and internal logics. This project does so focusing on Israel as a case study. In common with other colonial and post-colonial regimes, Israel uses torture not as the rare exception, but systematically. Israel therefore provides a paradigmatic case study for investigating the effects of the widespread deployment of torture.
This research is based on the exclusive access the research team has been granted to the archive of PCATI. The PCATI archive provides a rich and highly valuable source of data documenting torture practices, including, most significantly, depositions provided by more than 5,500 Palestinian victims of torture, in addition to medical records and legal documents. The project consists of the digitisation of the archive, and a close and detailed investigation into its data to expose facets of torture which thus far have remained hidden.
This research first explores what the systematic application of torture aims to do to the communities thus targeted. Framing the deployment of torture as a political technology (Foucault 1975), and seeing it as a colonial technology of population control, it examines whether and how it seeks to shape subjects, communal ties, and political relations.
Second, it investigates the effects of the prolonged and widespread use of torture on the society which facilitates its use, by mapping and analysing the interfaces between the security apparatuses and civic infrastructures that enable this deployment of torture, by focusing on the healthcare system. Predicated on the ethics of care, the convergence of healthcare with the violence of torture is most striking. This project examines how ethics is institutionalised and operationalised as a set of practices and procedures used to mitigate and mediate the incongruity between the rationales of torture and medical practices of care.
Impact of Research
In addition to the significant academic contribution of this project to research of state violence and torture, the impact of this research will derive from the processing and digitising of the PCATI archive. This serves two main objectives. First, it will provide PCATI with access to organized compilations of its own data, currently inaccessible as most files are not digitized. It would also allow PCATI to share this data with relevant national and international human rights organisations, as well as international and local legal experts. Second, an anonymised and redacted version of the data, as well as processed data and reports, will be made available to policy makers and to the public at large, via a website and a series of information sheets. The website will promote outreach to broad publics in Israel and internationally. To facilitate this outreach, the launch of this website will be accompanied by workshops, run in collaboration with human rights organisations in Israel, the West Bank, the UK and the US. Finally, the database will facilitate future research, as it will be available to other scholars. The impact of this database would therefore extend well beyond the timespan of this project.
This research project will yield two book manuscripts and two journal articles. The first book will explore the broad deployment of torture as a political technology. The second will be dedicated to understanding the impact that the servicing of torture can have on a system organised around the ethics of care.
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions