The Pleasures of Punishment: Complicity, Spectatorship, and Abu Ghraib

in Photography in Punishment in Popular Culture 236 (Austin Sarat, Charles J. Ogletree and Jr., eds.,  2015)

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-31

31 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2016

See all articles by Amy Adler

Amy Adler

New York University School of Law

Date Written: August 17, 2016

Abstract

At the same time that the Supreme Court has come to insist on a radical distinction between representations of sex and violence as a matter of constitutional law, never have the two genres been more deeply intertwined, in popular entertainment, of course, but also in certain practices of punishment. This paper considers the phenomenon of “torture porn” to explore not only representations of torture and humiliation in popular culture, but also the ways in which popular culture has shaped practices of punishment.

Here I explore photographs of Abu Ghraib (as well as other legal and cultural disputes over the disclosure of photographs of torture) to explore the ways in which the popular vernaculars of pornography and smart phone photography informed the practice of torture. I compare the photos to a burgeoning genre of reality TV shows from the same era in which in which the spectacle of humiliation, punishment and even torture plays a pivotal and seemingly pleasurable role in the drama. In both scenarios, I focus not only on the mixture of sexuality and violence, pleasure and punishment, but also on the critical role of the camera. Ultimately by analyzing the similarities between “torture porn” in popular entertainment and the visual materials produced at Abu Ghraib, I suggest a mutually productive relationship between popular culture and punishment.

Suggested Citation

Adler, Amy M., The Pleasures of Punishment: Complicity, Spectatorship, and Abu Ghraib (August 17, 2016). in Photography in Punishment in Popular Culture 236 (Austin Sarat, Charles J. Ogletree and Jr., eds.,  2015) ; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-31. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2825084

Amy M. Adler (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
Room 314
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6645 (Phone)
212-995-4341 (Fax)

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