More Statebuilding, Less Responsibility,

C HAPTER FOUR ‘M ORAL O PTICS ’: B IOPOLITICS , TORTURE AND THE IMPERIAL G AZE OF W AR PHOTOGRAPHY E DUARDO M ENDIETA No “we” should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people’s pain. 1 The issue is not whether the torture was done by individuals (i.e., “not by everybody”) but whether it was systematic. Authorized. Condoned. All acts are done by individuals. The issue is not whether a majority or a minority of Americans performs such acts but whether the nature of the policies prosecuted by this administration and the hierarchies deployed to carry them out makes such acts likely. Considered in this light, the photographs are us. That is, they are representative of the fundamental corruptions of any foreign occupation together with the Bush administration’s distinctive policies. 2 The photo cannot restore integrity to the body it registers. The visual trace is surely not the same as the full restitution of the humanity of the victim, however desirable that obviously is. The photograph, shown and circulated, becomes the public condition under which we feel outrage and construct political views to incorporate and articulate that outrage. 3 …as Botero’s Abu Ghraib series reminds us, for the limits of photography are not the limits of art. The mystery of painting, almost forgotten since the 1 Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), 7.

2 Susan Sontag, At The Same Time: Essays & Speeches (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007), 131.

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3 Judith Butler, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2009), 78. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 118 Counter-Reformation, lies in its power to generate a kind of illusion that has less to do with pictorial perception than it does with feeling. 4 A life that is in some sense socially dead or already “lost” cannot be grieved when it is actually destroyed. And I think we can see that entire populations are regarded as negligible life by warring powers, and so when they are destroyed, there is no great sense that a heinous act and egregious loss have taken place. My question is: how do we understand this nefarious distinction that gets set up between grievable and ungrievable lives? 5 There is a long tradition of philosophers using painting as a point of departure for philosophizing. It is a tradition that we can say was inaugurated with Plato. The converse has also been true. There have been painters who have seen their painting as thought captured with paint on canvass. Walter Benjamin found in Klee’s angels inspirations for some of his most profound thinking, as Adorno found his in Picasso and Kandinsky. Heidegger found his in Van Gogh, as Sartre found his in Giacometti. Arthur Danto has produced some of the most interesting work, not just in aesthetics, but also in philosophy tout court, by engaging over four decades in a most ecumenical and eclectic way with all kinds of works of art and painting. Yet, Foucault is perhaps one of the best examples of a philosopher who philosophized with and through painting.

What is interesting is that Foucault’s refracted by painting philosophizing influenced one of the twentieth century’s most important painters, namely Renè Magritte. In fact, we know that Magritte ‘preferred to be considered a thinker who communicated by means of paint.’ 6 In turn, we know that Foucault wrote a very incisive and insightful analysis of Magritte’s work, articulating the ways in which the latter’s work in fact is an exemplification of his work on ‘systems of thought.’ The relationship between philosophy and painting is more intimate than we are generally willing to accept. If we take Kant’s three questions as guides to what is philosophy, then we can say that painting is also about what can be known, what one ought to do, and what we may hope for. Just as philosophy is not reducible to epistemology, painting is also not reducible to the question of “representational equivalences,” to use 4 Arthur C. Danto, “The Body in Pain,” The Nation November 27 (2006): 24. 5 Judith Butler, “A Carefully Crafted F**K You: Nathan Schneider interviews Judith Butler” Guernica, available at http://www.guernicamag. com/interviews/ 1610/a_carefull _crafted_fk_you/.

6 Michel Foucault, This is Not a Pipe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 2. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 119 Danto’s wonderful phrase. Yet, there is nothing like painting to get us to reflect on the relationship among perception, representation, and cognition. Curiously, a canvass is an epistemological event before it is even an aesthetic one. One may even say that a canvass, a painting can be an aesthetic event only as an event of representation and perception.

Benjamin referred to film as a form of surgery of perception, but the fact is that this was already at play in painting. Painting is the archeology of perception that conceals its excavation in its very unconcealment.

Thinking with Benjamin, we could advance the idea that photography and film liberated painted from having to dissimulate its own perceptual surgery. Painting turns out to be the ontological proof of Kant’s insight into knowledge, namely that it is always a synthesis produced from the interaction of a frame and a naked and blunt perception. As painting was liberated to reflect on its role as an epistemological event, painting gained a license to in turn challenge the givenness and ‘objectivity’ of what photography and film themselves allege to give us without mediation.

Painting has re-claimed its sovereignty over the field of representation and perception. Susan Sontag wrote, “photography is, first of all, a way of seeing. It is not seeing itself.” 7 Painting, after the age of the mechanical reproducibility of chemically produced perceptual equivalences, teaches us that seeing itself is a way, a framing. If a picture is a frame, seeing is a way in which we frame the world in accordance with contingent and produced norms of representatibility and cognoscibility. We cannot see if we are not prepared to see –and this is the truth of painting. I think this is what Hans Jonas was trying to say when he wrote in his pioneering The Phenomenon of Life: “The artist sees more than the nonartist, not because he has a better vision, but because he does the artist’s work, namely, remaking the things he sees: and what one makes he knows.” 8 A thought that is aphoristically caught in this other phrase: “Expressing both in one indivisible evidence, homo pictor represents the point in which homo faber and homo sapiens are conjoined—are indeed shown to be one and the same.” 9 Painting reveals how homo sapiens apprehends not just the world but also itself in acts of representation that unmask the norms of cognoscibility that allow or disallow the seeing of those who are to be acknowledged or not acknowledged.

7 Sontag, At the Same Time, 214. 8 Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1982), 171.

9 Ibid., 173. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 120 In the following I want to, first, show the ways in which painting stands in an intimate relationship to philosophy by considering Foucault’s relationship to Magritte; second, I will argue, in reverse to the prior point, that there are painters who can help us see philosophers in a new light. If you like, if philosophers find painters productive, I want to say that painters in turn can help us re-think, or think at different level, philosophers. I will develop the latter point by discussing Fernando Botero’s painting on the Abu Ghraib torture perpetrated by US soldiers.

Third, as I discuss the ways in which Botero reveals something new about Foucault, I will bring into discussion Sontag and Butler on the politics and ethics of photographing torture, as I consider Leon Golub’s own canvasses of torture, and Arthur C. Danto’s own reflections on Golub’s provocative elucidation of a ‘moral optics.’ I After the much quoted preface, with its delightful and loud Borgesian laughter, Foucault’s The Order of Things (1970) opens with a chapter simply titled “Las Meninas.” In a way, this famous painting by Velázquez is the visual representation of the very invisibility of the framing of representation. If Les Mots et les Choses is about the “positive unconscious of science” 10 that is discerned by Foucault’s tracing the map of the “epistemological space” that allows for knowledge to be ordered in a new way, Las Meninas offered us a visual feast of that which enables seeing that is itself not seen. Foucault writes in this chapter the following:

“…the relation of language to painting is an infinite relation. It is not that words are imperfect, or that, when confronted by the visible, they proved insuperably inadequate. Neither can be reduced to the other’s terms: it is in vain that we say what we see; what we see never resides in what we say.

And it is in vain that we attempt to show, by the use of images, metaphors, or similes, what we are saying: the space where they achieve their splendor is not that deployed by our eyes but that defined by the sequential elements of syntax. And the proper name, in this particular context, is merely an artifice” (emphasis added). 11 The relationship between painting and language is infinite because there is a ceaseless feedback loop in which the named challenges the 10 Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage, 1970), xi.

11 Ibid., 9. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 121 representation and the representation seeks to give us something that is left unsaid in the name. What Velázquez’s Las Meninas allows us to see is precisely the infinite, inexhaustible, asymptotic relationship between the named and the painted. Velázquez is the painter that paints this abysmal gap that yaws in every painting: it is always at an unbridgeable distance from its subject. What Foucault says here about what is taking place in the grammar of the Velázquez’s painting, namely that “what we see never resides in what we say,” could be generalized in the following way: “what we see, as being presented, resides neither in what we say we see, nor in what we represent as seen.” Magritte, who had read Foucault’s Words and Things, wrote in a letter to Foucault the following: “There is the thought that sees and can be visibly described. Las Meninas is the visible image of Velázquez’s invisible thought.” 12 How do you paint what is invisible, especially if it is a thought about that invisibility?

This is one of the questions that Foucault aims to answer in his essay on Magritte, which is titled This is not a Pipe (1983), as well as his lecture on Manet (2009), although I will not discuss this here 13. I think that the heart of this long reflection on Magritte resides in Foucault’s affirmation that Magritte’s work is the enactment of the dissociation, or uncoupling of similitude and resemblance. For Foucault, resemblance is at the service of representation, while similitude is at the service of repetition. Painting accomplishes its task of constructing a visual field by conjoining resemblance and similitude, without conflating them. Similitude is utilized when resemblance has been exhausted. But what Magritte has done is uncoupling them in order to take similitude to play, rub, question or challenge resemblance. And it is in this playful resistance that painting becomes meta-painting. In fact, it could be claimed that Magritte’s work accomplishes this turn to meta-painting that Velázquez had inaugurated with his reflexive painting. What Foucault discerns in Magritte, as well as in Velázquez, is the way in which these two painters unveil the grammar of representation. In Velázquez’s case, by the way in which he makes 12 Michel Foucault, This is Not a Pipe, 57. 13 Foucault gave a series of lectures on Manet in the late Sixties, while he was still a professor in Tunis. In fact, according to Nicolas Bourriaud, Foucault drafted a course on the evolution of painting from the Renaissance to the modern period.

What is noteworthy is that in his lectures Foucault was also interested in the ways in which Manet made visible the invisibility of both the painter and the viewer by using a visual grammar that directs our gaze without painting the invisible. See Michel Foucault, Manet and the Object of Painting, introduction by Nicolas Bourriaud, trans. Matthew Barr (London: Tate Publishing, 2009). Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 122 evident the synthesizing role of the absent painter, who is nonetheless the absolute possibility of framing. The artist paints only by framing himself out of the frame. In Magritte’s case, by the way in which he provides x- rays, so to say, of how it is that paintings do what they do. Two examples of meta-painting closely discussed by Foucault are Représentation (1962) and Décalcomanie (1966). In both paintings we have a lateral enactment of similitude. In one case, a bucolic scene is repeated on the left between two incongruous and ornamental pillars (a visual neoplasm, if you will). In the other, the silhouette of a man represented from the back becomes the cut out on a curtain that reveals an empty sky. The relationship is not one of resemblance, which relies on mimesis, neither an approximation of it.

What is at work here is similitude dismantling the very act of representation by repeating without reproducing. Similitude militates against symmetric and transparent equivalences that would conceal their artifice behind their naïve mimesis that multiplies objects. Foucault writes:

…thanks to Décalcomanie the advantage of similitude over resemblance can be grasped. The latter reveals the clearly visible; similitude reveals what recognizable objects, familiar silhouettes hide, preventing from being seen, render invisible… Resemblance makes a unique assertion, always the same. This thing, that thing, yet another thing is something else. Similitude multiplies different affirmations, which dance together, tilting and tumbling over one another. 14 What takes place, or rather, what is exacted as a drama of representing in Magritte’s work, is what Foucault also seeks to stage in his archeology of knowledge. At the heart of Magritte’s work is the way in which resemblance and similitude intersect vertically to form a matrix that conditions the space of representability that, at the same time, reveals its constructedness and thus its contingency. Just as Magritte reveals the positive unconscious of painting, Foucault exposes the syntax of what is known through the production of the unknown. We learn to see by learning not to see, to unsee; just as we learn to know by unknowing what we know. II The publication of Michel Foucault’s Collège de France courses from the seventies through the early part of the eighties is forcing us to reconsider not just the reception of his work, but also where its 14 Foucault, This is Not a Pipe, 46. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 123 gravitational core laid. It has become customary to divide the evolution of his thinking into three periods: the archeological, the genealogical and the hermeneutical. Each period is putatively associated with a particular thematic preoccupation. Thus, epistemological questions correspond to the archeological period, while questions of power to the genealogical epoch, and questions of ethics to the hermeneutical phase. Curiously, albeit Foucault’s longstanding political activism, some accused Foucault of aestheticism, political nihilism and even of decisionism. Yet, what all the Collège de France courses make evident is the extent to which Foucault was immersed in the production of a historical ontology with a practical or political intent. If these fourteen courses are read in tandem, in sequence, one is left with the indelible and overriding impression that Foucault was a philosopher profoundly in tune with the political situation of his time. No course fails to make reference to a political crisis or debate, and each course’s main themes are articulated in terms of a problematic that is more or less made legible in terms of a contemporary political challenge. We cannot, for instance, fail to recognize the crisis of Western liberal democracy as it exploded in the violence of the early seventies, nor the evident critique of racist genocidal policies of certain governments, nor the political-economic challenges of the seventies, in the sometimes explicit, sometimes veiled, references in the courses. What reading Foucault’s Collège de France courses allows us to see is that Foucault’s concern with sexuality, the body and psychoanalysis had to do less with a history of sexuality, and more with a history of political agency. In fact, we will have to learn to read Foucault in a new way. We will no longer be able to read Foucault as the archeologist of the abnormal, and the genealogist of perverse desire, but as the philosopher of governmentality. In short, we will have to learn to see Foucault as the political philosopher of the historical production of freedom. Foucault, in fact, was not the philosopher of power, but the philosopher of intractable freedom. We will have to learn to read The History of Sexuality (1978), whose introduction is titled The Will to Know, as chapters in the history of forms of subjection and subjectification, as chapters in the history of a political anatomopolitics, that is, as chapters in the history of the uses of bodies for political goals. We will have to learn to read Foucault’s analyses of sovereignty, discipline, docility, pastoral control and surveillance, as subchapters within a longer history of governmentality. For the moment, propaedeutically, let me focus on the key last chapter of La Volonte de savoir, which is titled “Right of Death and Power over Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 124 Life.” These few, condensed, but explosive pages, with only two footnotes to the same text, are probably some of the most generative philosophical pages of the second half of the twentieth century. For it is in these pages that in 1976 Foucault announced the project of an analysis of the emergence of a new form of political power, namely biopolitical power.

This new form of political power, at least since the seventeenth century, had abrogated for itself the task not of ‘putting to death’ in the name, in praise, or as exaltation of the might of the sovereign; on the contrary, it had claimed for itself the power over life, to administer life, ‘to make live and to let die,’ in the name of everyone, not of the sovereign as the king, but of the sovereign as a living body, as a population. This new form of political power, or biopower, has evolved along two axes. Along one axis, it has developed a series of disciplinary technologies that come to bear upon the body as a machine. These technologies form an anatomopolitics that aims to optimize the capabilities of the body by rendering it more docile and pliable to be inserted within systems of economic and political control and efficiency. Along the other axes, the body is treated not singularly but as part of a species, a genera, whose basis is entirely biological and organic. Here the body is seen as part of a system of life processes: birth, mortality, health, life expectancy, and anything that increases or decreases these. The body seen as an instance of a species falls under the regulatory controls that form a biopolitics of populations. 15 The problematic of sexuality, of the regulation and disciplining of sex, arises precisely because it is the desiring body that mingles to reproduce or not to reproduce, to live out a non-reproductive desire, that allow us to discern the body as both singular and part of a species. It is in sex, in sexuality, where we can see most clearly how the two axes of biopolitical power intersect. As Foucault put it:

It was at the pivot of the two axes along which developed the entire political technology of life. On the one hand it was tied to the disciplines of the body: the harnessing, intensification, and distribution of forces, the adjustment and economy of energies. On the other hand, it was applied to the regulation of populations, through all the far-reaching effects of its activity. 16 15 Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Volume 1. An Introduction (New York:

Pantheon, 1978), 139.

16 Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 145. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 125 The regulation, production and management of sexuality, then, became a biopolitical dispositif that manages the life of a population by regulating the way individual bodies mingle and come together in their desire to consume, to release, to exacerbate their embodied pleasures. Above all, then, under this new form of political power, the management of life, the administration of life is to be dispensed and executed through securing the life of a population whose biological subsistence is to be territorially contained. It is for this reason that we see in the second half of the seventies Foucault’s preoccupation with the defense of society and the birth of biopolitics, that is also linked to the clarification of the biopolitical dispositifs of territory and population. What we learn from the Collège de France lectures from 1975 through 1978, is that in order to make sense of the emergence of this new form of political power, namely biopolitical power, Foucault had to embark on a history of modalities of government.

This is why he undertakes the study of the Christian and Greek pastorates, as well as German and American forms of neoliberalism, which are seen as antecedents of modern biopolitical power. It is, however, the 1975-6 course Society Must Be Defended, that is particularly crucial to our deeper understanding of Foucault’s originality, and of how his thinking remains generative and still to be fully exploited.

For it is in this course that Foucault offers a fuller analysis of the question that the emergence of biopolitical power immediately provokes, namely: if sovereignty, political power, or governmentality, is now to be understood in terms of the production of life, the administering of life, the making of the live of a population, how is death to be recaptured by the sovereign?

According to Foucault, it is racism, as biological racism, enabled by the rise of the biological sciences, which allows now the sovereign to re-store the balance of sovereign power over both life and death. Biopolitical power, and I would say, biopolitical sovereignty, is more encompassing, more absolute, precisely because it is both singularizing and generalizing.

It treats the entire body of a population, as it watches over every individual living body through its disciplining technologies. Biopolitical racism intervenes to allow, and to make necessary, the elimination, eradication, extraction and quarantining of that which may be seen as a threat to the life of the population. Society must be defended, always, continuously, vigilantly, resolutely against both extrinsic and intrinsic threats. Society must be defended against itself, principally, because it is its life that is ceaselessly threatened by its own condition of preservation and reproduction. Now we can see why race is like sex. For like sex, race is the pivot where biopolitical discipline and regulations intersect most Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 126 powerfully. It is for this reason that the simultaneous disciplining and regulation of sex is also the disciplining and regulation of race. Let me here refer you to Ladelle McWhorter’s recently published book Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America 17, a brilliant exemplification of this type of biopolitical analytics of both sex and race.

I think that it is Foucault’s history of governmentality, with its chapter on the birth of biopolitics, which provides us with some of the most useful analytical means for making sense of what we can call the politics of torture. More specifically, a Foucauldian analytics of biopower allows us to understand how it is that today, in the age of biopolitical power, the politics of torture has become a biopolitics of torture. Yet even more specifically, what a Foucauldian analytics of the biopolitics of torture allows to see all too clearly how the torture of the racialized and sexualized body of so-called “un-lawful” combatants, who are not prisoners, but “detainees,” have entered a zone of legal exemption in which they are neither dead nor alive, where they can neither die nor live on their own terms. If biological racism became necessary, that is, indispensable, for modern biopolitical governance, then, biopolitical torture has become also necessary and indispensable for the modern state that must “secure” the nation from “un-lawful” combatants, i.e. terrorists.

In other words, terrorists are the racial threats that had to be expunged, excised, or exterminated if society was to be saved and secured from its threats. Another way of saying this is that the biopolitical state has to become a security state, a state that secures the life of the population and administers its life in order to maximize it. For this biopolitical state of security, biological racism (genetic racism, or genetic racialism) was an indispensable dispositif to put to death so as to secure life. By the same token, for this biopolitical state of security, racialized and gendered torture is an indispensable dispositif. A Foucauldian analytics of biopolitical power allows us to understand how torture reenters the staging of state power, even after the Hobbessian sovereign had been forced to abdicate its scaffolding and theater of terror. Now, however, since the biopolitical sovereign is the people, the staging of this power over life and death can only take place within this space of indistinction in which the law is suspended by legal decree. The state of exemption becomes territorialized in the legal “black holes” in which individuals, or enemies of “society,” are suspended between life and death. These “non-persons” are the 17 Ladelle McWhorter, Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009). Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 127 zombies of the biopolitical state of security that assumed legal status with the Patriot Act.

Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist born in 1932 in Medellín, has been painting already for over five decades. His work is internationally renowned, has been shown in every major museum and gallery across the world, and is also immediately recognizable. Botero’s work is so easily identifiable that it is almost iconic. In fact, Botero’s unique style has given birth to adjective “Boteresque” or the expression “there goes a Botero” to refer to people with unusual proportions and girth. One way to make sense of Botero’s rotund, voluptuous and improbably fat figures is to think that he is surely reflecting and commenting on bourgeois anxieties about the flesh. On the one hand, fatness stands in his paintings for the excesses of the privileged classes, which more often than not are ridiculed, scorned and demoted. The haughty expressions, the ornate dresses, the regal accoutrements, the imperial posturing, are all neutralized and deflated by the heaviness of unbridled and undisciplined bodies. On the other hand, this very same abundant, solid, cherubic and baby-like fatness can be read as a form of humanization. What from an angle can be seen as an anxiety, from another angle—provided within the paintings themselves—allows us to see a vulnerable subject. Against a bourgeois, imperial, sovereign subject—Cartesian, Kantian, but most exactly, against the Cortésian and Pizarronian subject—Botero juxtaposes the corporeality of the flesh that is undisciplined and undisciplinable. We are irreducibly creatures of bodies that hunger and can die both of starvation or gluttony. Our flesh thus is always a source of a profound unease, for it can betray us to the same degree making us vulnerable to another’s violence.

Botero’s work has also been the target of dismissal and derision, notwithstanding its international recognition. Yet, he is a cross over artist, who has gained acceptance across classes and levels of status alike. His paintings are reproduced for popular consumption and they sell in galleries for exorbitant prizes. Botero’s paintings, however, are difficult to characterize, though prima facie they seem to repeat the same formal techniques of the venerated masters of painting. While his work has been dismissed as being naïve, folklorist and repetitive, Botero has also produced a vast number of paintings that are overtly political and have gone on to be seen as chronicling the darkest chapters of the last half a century of Latin American history. Notwithstanding all of this, the works that concern me here are his paintings and drawings on Abu Ghraib.

Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 128 In the spring of 2004, as soon as the US media began to release the pictures of the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib, Fernando Botero began to make some drawings. As the scandal escalated and more and more photographs were released, Botero undertook to paint an entire series of paintings and drawings. He worked on a total of 86 works on Abu Ghraib.

Some of them are based on the released photographs taken by Sabrina Harman and Lyndee England. But some of them are based on Botero’s own imaginings and reconstruction of scenes at Abu Ghraib based on the testimony and the reports made public along with the photographs. Some of Botero’s paintings about Abu Ghraib were first shown in Europe in the spring of 2005. He offered them to several galleries in the US, which refused them for fear of violence or retaliation, or because showing them would be seen as an act of treason and perfidy. They were finally shown in New York at the Marlborough Gallery. Gallery attendees had to be searched before entering the exhibition, for security reasons. Eventually, in 2007, a traveling exhibition was mounted that went throughout the country, but it was shown only in smaller university based galleries.

The oil paintings are mostly between five by four and seven by five feet. They are life size and occupy easily a wall. The colors are extremely vivid and alive and, given their composition, they evoke the staging of historical events. They monumentalize without celebrating. These paintings have taken the ephemera of war, terror, violence and dehumanization and put them on a historical stage. In this way, Botero has rescued the dignity of those who suffered these acts of terror without condoning or celebrating the violence done unto them. A photograph is a shot. It is a frozen frame. It is the blink of the eye. Yet, a photo shot dissimulates its framing. The evidence of what is seen erases how it is seen, how it has been surrendered to the eye. A photograph is frozen time that dissolves its staging. It is a visual shot captured by a chemical reaction that negates the temporality of all human action. Botero’s paintings are an attempt to regain the temporal staging of the acts of torture. Torture is not a moment but a string of actions. It is not an event, or eventuality, but a procedure, a process that goes on over time within certain institutions.

Torture is sovereign temporality as it performs its violence within its institutions. Torture is performed within a time frame that is dictated by the sovereign exception.

The acts of torture are not something that a few did, against some unknown “unlawful” combatants. The acts of torture correspond to a frame of action, a policy, an event of force, a staging of military power. By Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 129 referencing the historically sedimented grammar of Western art—from Caravaggio, through Velázquez, Goya and Rivera to Leon Golub—Botero has rescued from the fleeting and forgetful eventuality of the media frenzy the historical and moral dimension of what took place at Abu Ghraib.

These were not acts done by individuals, alone, or simply by individuals.

These individuals were caught in the logic of a war. While Botero’s paintings put the torture committed at Abu Ghraib on a historical stage, they neither lessen nor detract from the individuality of those tortured. The torturer, however, hardly appears here. The emphasis is on the staging of torture, on the suffering, anguish, and terror of the torture. There is a deliberate asymmetry between the torturer and the tortured in these paintings. The torturers are not individualized. There are only four out of 86 paintings and drawings in which the torturers are represented. There is only one life size oil painting in which the face of a torturer is revealed. In a few occasions a boot is shown. In several cases we see a urine stream falling on the bound bodies. The focus is on the torture and on the suffering flesh of the tortured. The torturer does not need to appear. The torture is the setting itself, what is being done to the bodies, how it is being done. Interestingly, in light of what Judith Butler has written about the Abu Ghraib pictures, the torturer is in most occasions shown stepping from outside the painting into the frame. Torture here is the framing—the stage of pain, the theater of humiliation and mocking.

Even as Botero places on a historical level the torture at Abu Ghraib, echoing Goya’s The Disasters of War, he also accents, highlights and illuminates that which makes the torture at Abu Ghraib singular. The paintings are persistent on their illustration of the sexual and psychological dimension of torture. Botero has managed to paint shaming and shame.

The corpulent and improbably muscular bodies look ridiculous with female lingerie. But this is the point. The panties over the head, the use of police sticks to sodomize, the urinating over prostrated and bound bodies, are shown here on the same level as the staging of the torture: the kicking with boots, the hanging from a limb, the hitting with the police stick.

Botero alternates between solid, muscular bodies hanging or tied to a cell grate, and supple, plump bodies in which the pectorals look like female breasts. Some of the figures are ambiguously gendered, or gendered ambiguously—but I don’t want to suggest that because they are feminized, they are emasculated. I am not sure every feminization is always an act of emasculation. Or conversely, that every form of emasculation has to be a form of feminization. One can emasculate by comparing to another male, or type of males, or by bestializing, which is why the dogs and the Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 130 imagery of animalization is also dominant in the Abu Ghraib paintings. In most cases, the male genitalia are shown, but in some cases they are not— perhaps suggesting that these bodies that are being sodomized are being raped—indeed rape can take many forms. Here torture is thoroughly sexualized. Sex was a tool of torture. The massively corporeal bodies of the tortured exude humanity and vulnerable embodiment. At the same time that these tortured bodies are exposed bruised, bloodied, and in some cases covered in filth and feces, they are also shown dripping blood, with their head tilting to one side and the mouth slightly open, as if to suggest that this body has just been hit. As one gets closer to the paintings, the historical frame recedes, and what comes to the foreground are the details. Botero’s Abu Ghraib paintings are full of features that return us to the physicality of torture. As if to underscore this fact, Botero painted two close ups of a hand and a foot bound by a tightly tied rope. The skin is lacerated, mauled, and blood is freshly flowing in droplets. Reduced to anonymity by a military system that racks them in order to extract “vital information,” these bodies are shown in their irreducible corporeal injurability. These tortured bodies are human bodies. Human dignity is at base a corporeal dignity. Against the torture of the biopolitical security state, which tortures to save “our” society, Botero juxtaposes the embodied humanity of these tormented bodies. Against the frame of war and official violence, Botero directs us to the detail of the terrorized gape and the bleeding flesh. Abu Ghraib may be “us” as Sontag wrote, and Abu Ghraib may become the visual emblem of the US war against the Iraqi people, but because of Botero, Abu Ghraib has now become part of the archive of human suffering at the hands of the violence of lawless sovereigns.

Perhaps it is not excessive to make clearer the ways in which Botero allows us to see something that Foucault’s work theorizes and that has allowed me to make the suggestion that the politics of torture has become the biopolitics of torture in the biopolitical age. In Botero’s canvasses we are forced to confront the corporeality of both the tortured and the torturer, and the means by which the absent sovereign is rendered too visible in the useless violence of torture, the alleged acts of securitization—one of the primary aims of the biopolitical state. In this useless violence, the sovereign affirms itself, but as absent. It is a productive absence, and it is neither arbitrary nor accidental that the Abu Ghraib “affair” was produced by the lack of clarity about who was in charge. Biopolitical sovereignty governs through the vacuums it creates. Now, instead of the excessive and Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 131 flamboyant pageantry of sovereign power, with its guillotine, gallows and hanging platform, we have a power that is dissimulated not just by its semi-clandestine character, but by its performer, who is an average and unimpressive individual. Here torture is performed not by a soldier but by a weekend warrior. Above all, in the intimacy between tortured and torturer—a theme that is also central to Leon Golub’s paintings as we will see—the way in which sovereign power retreats to the individual, who are forced to do the utmost in the name of the security of society, is made clear. There is no sovereign, except the individual, who does not have a visible mark of being the agent of the state, except perhaps that they are wearing combat fatigues and boots. Botero’s distinct style makes available to him a grammar that always directs us to the mundane and quotidian. It is precisely this grammar what allows Botero to address directly the biopolitics of torture, in as much as he is unmasking the biopolitical sovereign concealed behind our sense of urgency to save ourselves from the so-called terrorists by doing the dirty deeds of a society deliberately rendered anxious about its security. III The title of this chapter comes from a wonderful line that is to be found in a short essay by Arthur C. Danto, published in The Nation, Nov. 17, 1984. The essay is a review of a retrospective of Leon Golub’s work held at the New Museum in New York City, when the museum was still on Broadway. I happen to have seen this exhibition. The canvasses were gigantic. They were probably between 15 and 20 feet high. They hanged from the ceiling, unadorned, unframed, like curtains covering some massive windows. They reminded me of the tapestries depicting wars and animals hunts that adorned the imperial dwellings of medieval royalty.

You had to step back, way back to get a sense of the scene. Most of the canvasses depicted scenes of torture, interrogation, and the modus operandi of death squads. Golub was explicit that these were scenes referring to the torture that had taken place during the Contra Wars in Nicaragua and Guatemala, as well as torture scenes in South Africa. The canvass had a photographic framing, or rather they were painted as if taking a picture. They depict staged scenes, as if the torturers had posed for Golub. There is both an intimacy and playfulness that would like to make mundane the violent acts depicted. This makes them even more shocking, for they feign a normality that is belied by what is depicted. One is made to reach for Arendt’s wonderful phrase: “the banality of evil.” But here, banality is the quotidian and almost pedestrian character of the Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 132 performance of violence. Soldiers are standing around, smoking, distracted, as if bored, or taking a break, while a tied and hooded figure doubles in pain. The photographic framing of the canvasses, however, seem to invite our complicity, or at least compliance through our genuflection to photographic evidence. Danto captures this insinuation when he writes “He addresses [Golub, the painter] them [the torturers and death squads] as a photographer who seems to show himself almost as indifferent to the enormities he sees as the agents of those enormities themselves are. It is as though he is there, in the same terrible space as victims and tormentors, asking the latter to stop for a moment and pose for what today is called a ‘photo opportunity’.” 18 In fact, some of the subjects in Golub’s paintings look back directly at you, as if saying “you, there, you see what we have to do to keep you safe, to protect your liberties. This is all part of the work of liberation and democracy.” But Golub is in fact challenging us to see past this looking back from the gaze of the torturers. There is a way of gazing that neutralizes our moral response and responsibility, one that sucks us into the quick sands of acceptance, compliance and complicity. This is the imperial gaze that frames out the suffering of the victims and that conceals the very mechanisms that arrange what Judith Butler has called the “domain of representability.” 19 While Golub frames his paintings as photographs, he is actually using the very techniques of painting to unmask the imperial gaze enabled by photography. The size of the canvasses, which in order to be seen require us to step back, force us to take distance from the ‘staged scenes,’ thus making us pause as they pull us in. But as canvasses that hang and that come across as if crumpled and faded newspaper photographs, they invite us to look closely. Golub used a distinctly painterly technique to give his canvasses that eerily faded and historicized look—scraping the canvass, many times over (think here for a moment of Francis Bacon’s own scraped canvases, though I have no knowledge whether there was some influence between these painters). Golub scraped his painted canvasses as if to reduce the image to a diaphanous shimmer, as if to reduce the image to a spectral apparition. The technique is simply unsettling. An image of violence, itself a product of violence, one can almost see Golub angrily 18 Arthur C. Danto, “Leon Golub,” in The State of the Art (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987), 20.

19 Butler, Frames of War, 74. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 133 scrapping at these images as if to perform an exorcism of the violent history of war, torture, human depravity, but above all, human callousness. Danto comments on this particular aspect of Golub’s work in this way:

“The power of the works derives from their moral optics, from the fact that the artist has entered the world he had previously been separated from by his noisy surfaces” (italics added). 20 Now, I don’t have to agree with this entire sentence, especially because Danto already had told us that part of the power of the canvasses resides on the fact that Golub gives us a sense of intimacy by insinuating himself to the torturers—the lets capture this “photo opportunity.” What I find incisive and correct is that Danto does capture Golub’s moral outrage and how it is manifested in a “moral optics” that Golub wants us, urges us, to adopt. By playing painting with and against photography, Golub is unleashing a visual pedagogy: how to look, how to represent, how to frame, how to ultimately see; in short, how to remain a moral subject through all this making visible the world of human suffering and infliction of this suffering. In Camera Lucida, his wonderful reflection on photography, Roland Barthes wrote: I observed that a photograph can be the object of three practices (or of three emotions, or of three intentions): to do, to undergo, to look. The Operator is the photographer. The Spectator is ourselves, all of us who glance through collections of photographs… And the person or thing photographed is the target, the referent, a kind of little simulacrum, any eidolon emitted by the object, which I should like to call the Spectrum of the Photograph… 21 Golub’s urging to consider what, how and under what conditions we are witnesses to inflicted and calculative suffering echoes Barthes’ reflections on the phenomenology of photography. What are we doing when we gaze at such images, and what do we not see or are not allowed to see precisely in seen through a particular frame? What happens to us, what do we undergo when we submit to such ‘optics’, such a way of framing the visual field, and what do we look at and thus either admit as seeable or not seeable when we look? These are the kind of questions that Golub unleashes by the photographic framing of his canvasses of torture. 20 Danto, “Leon Golub,” 21. 21 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 9. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 134 There has not been a US philosopher who has most consistently, incisively, creatively, urgently and with such a profound sense of moral outrage confronted the US imperial/military/torture machine since 2001 than has Judith Butler. If the history of philosophy is punctuated by war, philosophy pushes back by developing new conceptual tools to challenge the recurrence and endurance of war. Judith Butler has made this amply clear in her work of the last decade, which spans the US wars in the Middle East and the so-called “War on Terror.” One of her most recent essays is a critical engagement with Susan Sontag’s own meditations on the Abu Ghraib pictures. As against Sontag, who sustained that photographs require captions to provide interpretations and that on their own they are merely selective rather than interpretative, Butler argues that the photograph is itself already an interpretative framing:

“Indeed, if the notion of ‘visual interpretation’ is not to become oxymoronic, it seems important to acknowledge that, in framing reality, the photograph has already determined what will count within the frame—and this act of delimitation is surely interpretative, as are, potentially, the various effects of angle, focus, light, etc.” 22 In Camera Lucida Barthes argues that photography was not the invention of painters, but of chemists, who gave us the ability to capture light reflected off objects. Photography is a technological dispositif that makes reality available to us in a certain way, as a frame it is already a worlding—the letting the world appear and be perceived in a certain way.

Part of the framing effect of photography as it is exhibited in the Abu Ghraib snaps is that all these pictures were digital. Thus, it was part of the photographic framing that a large percentage of soldiers in Iraq had portable digital cameras, and that it was part of the military routine and camaraderie to swap pictures. What is to be noted about the Abu Ghraib pictures is not that they were taken and leaked. This was inevitable and almost necessitated by the logic of digital photography. What would have been utterly amazing is that they had never been leaked. The picture was itself a tool of torture—not simply in that it documented it, but also because the photograph itself became one of the techniques and devices of torture. “We will use these photographs to show your family and friends what depraved person you are”—or something like that went the threat.

Barthes again: 22 Butler, Frames of War, 67. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 135 “The important thing is that the photograph possesses an evidential force, and that its testimony bears not on the object but on time. From a phenomenological viewpoint, in the photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation.” 23 By time Barthes means here the trace of a historical event, of what has happened. What is important about the photograph is not so much whether it is accurate and how it delivers the object, but that it framed an event in history. That a photograph was taken is testimony that it happened. This is particularly true of the Abu Ghraib pictures, as Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris demonstrated in their documentary about the individuals who were involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal. 24 Most of these pictures were taken by US army specialist Sabrina Harman, who was indicted for prisoner abuse and military misconduct. As it emerged from extensive interviews with Morris, Sabrina had been taken pictures to document what the ‘army’ was doing and letting happen, rather what they themselves were doing, or being forced to do. 25 After Gourevitch and Morris we will have to learn to distinguish between what the Abu Ghraib pictures portrayed, and what they documented; between what was intended with the photographs and what they revealed. Yet, this is one case in which photography’s power of framing exceeded its power to reveal and disclose. And this is precisely Butler’s point when she writes commenting on the Abu Ghraib pictures:

We do not have to be supplied with a caption or a narrative in order to understand that a political background is being explicitly formulated and renewed through and by the frame, that the frame functions not only as a boundary to the image, but as structuring the image itself. If the image in turn structures how we register reality, then it is bound up with the interpretive scene in which we operate. The question for war photography thus concerns not only what it shows, but how it shows what it shows. The “how” not only organizes the image, but work to organize our perception and thinking as well (italics added). 26 Like a translation is always already an interpretation and not a mere transposition, or a transfer, the photograph is always already an interpretation, 23 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 88-9. 24 Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris, Standard Operating Procedure (New York:

Penguin, 2008).

25 Philip Gourevith and Errol Morris, “Exposure: The woman behind the camera at Abu Ghraib” The New Yorker, March 24 th, 2008. 26 Butler, Frames of War, 71. Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

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Chapter Four 136 a rendering legible, a granting license to enter the field of representability, and thus a permission to be acknowledged and registered as allowed to command our moral considerability. I would conclude by noting that just as Botero allows us to read Foucault’s biopolitical analytics of torture in new ways, as I hope to have shown above, both Botero and Golub also allow us to counter the mesmerizing and framing power of the imperial gaze that is enabled and commanded by war photography. By playing with and against war photography, Botero and Golub make us see through and around the framing of photography to the corporeal vulnerability and injurability of the tortured. Over against the imperial gaze of war photography, and through the use of the techniques of painting, Botero and Golub juxtapose what we can call along with Jill Bennett “empathic vision,” 27 by which we mean something like a conjunction of affective and critical ways of looking and seeing, framing and gazing, portraying and representing, allowing to be seen and letting see. Using Butler’s political ontology of grievable life we can discern more legibly the ways in which Botero and Golub offer us a deconstruction of the phenomenology of the imperial gaze so as to be able to feel morally while seeing the humanity of those who are not allowed to be represented as humans in the imperial field of representability. Being able to see may be a way to feel for those whom we have refused to grieve. Bibliography Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York:

Hill and Wang, 1981.

Bennett, Jill. Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma and Contemporary Art.

Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Botero, Fernando. Botero: Works 1994-2007. Milano: Skira Editore, 2007.

—. Abu Ghraib. New York: Prestel, 2006.

Butler, Judith. “A Carefully Crafted F**K You: Nathan Schneider interviews Judith Butler”. Guernica, March, 2010. http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/1610/a_carefully_crafted_fk_ you/ —. Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2009.

27 Jill Bennett, Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art (Stanford:

Stanford University Press, 2005). Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

Copyright © 2013. Cambridge Scholars Publisher. All rights reserved.

Biopolitics, Torture and the Imperial Gaze of War Photography 137 Danto, Arthur C. “Leon Golub.” In The State of the Art. New York:

Prentice Hall Press, 1987.

—. “The Body in Pain” The Nation, November 27, 2006. http://www.thenation.com/article/body-pain.

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage, 1970.

—. The History of Sexuality. Volume 1. An Introduction. New York:

Pantheon, 1978.

—. This is not a Pipe. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

—. “Society must be Defended” Lectures at the Collège de France 1975- 1976. New York: Picador, 2003.

Gourevitch, Philip and Morris, Errol. “Exposure: The woman behind the camara at Abu Ghraib.” The New Yorker, March 24, 2008.

Gourevitch, Philip and Morris, Errol. Standard Operating Procedure. New York: Penguin, 2008.

Joas, Hans. The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

McWhorter, Ladelle. Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America.

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Michaelsen, Scott and Shershow, Scott Cutler. “Does Torture Have a Future?” boundary 2 33 (2006): 163-199.

Sillevins, John. The Baroque World of Fernando Botero. New Haven:

Yale University Press, 2006.

Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2003.

—. At The Same Time: Essays & Speeches. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007.

Spies, Werner ed. Botero: Paintings and Drawings. New York: Prestel, 2007.

Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

Copyright © 2013. Cambridge Scholars Publisher. All rights reserved.

Barreto, J. (Ed.). (2013). Human rights from a third world perspective : Critique, history and international law. ProQuest Ebook Central http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from johnjay-ebooks on 2020-10-21 20:35:05.

Copyright © 2013. Cambridge Scholars Publisher. All rights reserved.

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