Series:

Toni Koivulahti

Abstract

This chapter begins with Milbank’s reflections on the torture of Christ. The aim is to examine alternative narratives that Milbank’s thinking opens up regarding the universality of the experience of torture, from the standpoint of the Passion narrative. According to Milbank, the torture and death of Christ happened in a manner that resembles Agamben’s writings on homo sacer, a person who exists outside the community and who can be killed without punishment, but not sacrificed in a religious ritual. For Milbank, who views Christ as structurally analogous to a homo sacer, the Passion is a ritual sacrifice and, therefore, a variant of the homo sacer. This opens up a new avenue for questioning Christ’s execution by a way of examining his paradoxical position outside of the law, but at the same time ‘crowned’ the king of the Jews, and the son of God. This essay follows Derrida’s three figures that exist outside the law: the beast, criminal, and sovereign. A theological understanding of these classifications can broach new avenues in analysing secular questions of torture and exteriority to the legal order. Christ’s suffering combines these Derridean figures and ritualizes extra-legal violence, helping us understand how ritual violence becomes political violence.

Series:

Lon Olson

Abstract

The approach to ‘redefining’ torture utilized by the George W. Bush Justice Department after 9/11 was founded on a particularly erroneous legal interpretation which led to human rights abuses that should have been prevented. In addition to the horrific suffering inflicted upon both the guilty and the innocent, this redefinition of torture led many Americans, civilian and military, to commit acts that both compromised their own moral integrity and besmirched the moral reputation of the nation they were sworn to serve. In contrast, I argue for a definition that is grounded in principles that emphasize respect for the dignity of human life as well as rationality, of both the torture victim and the torturer. In light of this, the definition of torture for which I argue relies heavily on natural law principles that articulate the dignity of all human beings. The end result is a definition of torture that has the capacity to serve as a foundation upon which to build more fine-grained laws designed to curtail this destructive practice.

Series:

Noora Koivulahti

Abstract

This chapter addresses the connection between torture and a position outside the law, a relation that is examined from the point of view of three social theorists, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, and Costas Douzinas. Arendt argues that the only effective protection of human rights are national rights established by states; Agamben develops the concept of homo sacer, meaning a person living beyond the reach and interest of the law and at the same time being especially vulnerable because of that position; and Douzinas criticizes the concept of human rights as legitimizing violence committed by western liberal democracies. The starting point of all three is that grounds for torture of human beings are borne out of, and even necessitated by, exclusion from the state. Drawing on the work of Gary Francione, I argue that the same logic is structurally analogous with regard to the position of non-human animals, which are outside the law specifically because they are not legally recognized as possessing any rights that would not be overruled by the rights of their owners. This chapter argues that denying legal personhood makes torture possible, and even encourages it, both with regard to humans and non-human animals.