Design and Violence

WHITE TORTURE

Agence France-Presse (AFP), 2014

‘White Torture’ refers to torture techniques which rely more on psychological torment and temporary physical duress than ‘traditional’ torture. As Trinity College Dublin neuroscientist Shane O’Mara writes in Why Torture Doesn’t Work, “when we think of torture, our thinking is deeply coloured by images of medieval cruelty: the rending of flesh, the breaking of bones, and the pain made visible through scar and scream. We do not think of techniques that leave no visible record of their presence, techniques that manipulate the metabolic and psychopathalogical extremes of body, brain and behavior, and which are, by any reasonable standard, torture”. White torture is designed to exploit existing drives such as fear, the need for sleep or social contact, and — by avoiding clear physical marks — attempts to bypass laws against torture, particularly in Western democracies. The authorisation by high-ranking US justice officials of such techniques, including simulated drowning and close confinement, is the subject of this illustration and installation.

Image used with permission of Agence France-Presse (AFP).