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Social Anthropology: Research


Tortured Ethics

Tortured ethics: Anthropology of International Law and Politics ESRC Research Fellowship, 2008-2011

Images of tortured bodies have played a central role in the recent international history of the Middle East. Conflicts over the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo and Abu- Ghraib, as well as the prisons of Syria and Saudi Arabia, have helped shape the relationship between the citizens and states of Europe, North America and the Middle East. In this process, the natures of international humanitarian responsibility, national security, and individual rights have been contested and given form. Crucially, although these debates are often seen to be distinctively international in character, they are always concretely located in the everyday dilemmas felt by lawyers, doctors, bureaucrats, security officers, and many others. An anthropological analysis of the implications of conflicts over the meanings of torture therefore offers a unique avenue into exploring how the international politics of the Middle East is manifested and produced in specific local settings. The research programme will produce a multi-sited study of the implications of international human rights claims for understandings of cruelty and suffering. By bringing together research in the UK, at the UN and in Israel/Palestine into one analytical framework, the programme will explore the relationship between the local meanings of political protest and the international flow of the practices designed to recognize suffering. In doing so, it will examine how often contradictory notions of citizenship and victimhood are formed through the specific nature of international engagement.

Contact Dr Tobias Kelly

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