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(2019) Violence and meaning, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Torturous violence

a phenomenological approach to the violence in the acts of torture

Jeremy Heuslein

pp. 191-215

Following in the phenomenological tradition, I aim to ground my chapter in the lived experience of a particular form of violence: torture. Torture, and likewise torturous violence, is a phenomenon that crosses both the immanent (functioning at the level of social bodies and institutions) and the individual (a subject who is tortured and one who is the torturer) thresholds of violence. As such, it reveals unique connections between violence and the intersubjective constitution of meaning. Using the work of Walter Benjamin and his interpreter Giorgio Agamben, I hope to illuminate the nature of founding violence (mythic violence), and then in dialogue Jean Améry and Elaine Scarry demonstrate the species of founding violence operative in torture, as social bodies are dismembered and replaced through individual acts of torture. Moreover, I argue that torturous violence targets the resistance of the tortured, in order to break down the meaning-making capacities that a person has, including within the intersubjective field of capacities. By presenting Benjamin and Agamben, Améry and Scarry, I intend to further the study of violence using the spectrum of violence present in torture. In connecting the concepts of founding violence, intersubjectivity, torture, and resistance, I demonstrate that the logic of founding violence works itself out in unstable social bodies in the form of torture, in order to deconstruct the resistances offered by subjects within those intersubjective communities.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-27173-2_9

Full citation:

Heuslein, (2019)., Torturous violence: a phenomenological approach to the violence in the acts of torture, in L. Lauwaert, L. K. Smith & C. Sternad (eds.), Violence and meaning, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 191-215.

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