Monday, March 2, 2015 - 12:15pm to 2:00pm
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K262, the Bowie-Vernon Room, Knafel Building, CGIS, 1737 Cambridge Street

STS Circle at Harvard

Steve Caton (Harvard, Anthropology), "Experts in Cruelty: Interrogation in Abu Ghraib and After"

Sandwich lunches are provided. Please RSVP to by Wednesday at 5PM the week before.

Abstract:   When the photographs of U.S. abuses of detainees in Abu Ghraib became known in 2003, the world was shocked to learn that the U.S. military was engaged in what the Geneva Conventions and other treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory would call torture. Of course, it later became clear that this prison contained a “black site,” just one of many in the world where “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” were practiced, and that what happened in Abu Ghraib was part of a global phenomenon. One way officials and others have criticized what happened in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere is by claiming these abuses were committed by “amateurs” and not “experts,” calling for a review of interrogation techniques and for a professionalization of them. This discourse is examined in this paper. It raises interesting questions of what such a distinction seems to allow and disallow in the way of interrogation techniques. I will try to look at this question by examining the “manual” as a guideline issued by the CIA and the U.S. military over a period of years to try to train interrogation personnel. I will look at the way interrogation is constructed in these manuals and throughout I will look at the “expert” as a key figure in the interrogation process.

Biography:   Steven C. Caton is the Khaled bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman Al Saud Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University. He is the author of Yemen Chronicle, among other works, and is writing on a book on Abu Ghraib and the Frankfurt School of which this talk will form a chapter.


Contact Name: 

Shana Rabinowich

Research Areas: 

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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