© Jonathan Austin

Small Worlds of Violence

How is torture possible? How does a human being know how to harm another? Face-to-face, body-to-body, side-by-side, scream-to-scream, blow-to-blow? This is a practical question. And to it this text offers a practical guide. Unlike accounts that have come before it, this book shows the ‘doing’ of torture and direct the reader towards the being and becoming of its violence, its sensemaking, its how-possible conditions: as many elements as I could assemble that reveal how we – you, the reader, and I the author – as well as any other, can become torturers. It guides us collectively through to an answer to the question of how our bodies – bodies we feel to be good – can do bad, can see their muscles tense to flick out the motor movements that do harm, can see their emotional response to witnessing another cry out in pain, in admonishment to desist, offer no resistance, and can commit these acts in symmetry with other bodies across borders, in a choreography of violence that echoes its movements here at home, and over there abroad, wherever that may be. This is a guide to violence as something more intimate to you than you know. It is a microsocial guide to the globality of torture’s ontology.

This project formed the basis of my doctoral dissertation at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. It involved interviewing victims and perpetrators of torture, analysing hundreds of videos of torture, and coding a unique dataset on primary and secondary sources relating to torture, as well as incorporating fictional and non-fictional literary accounts of violence. The project has resulted, thus far, in the following outputs:

∴ A monograph to be submitted to University of Minnesota Press in early 2017.

∴ A + $1,000,000 research grant for a follow-up research (see the VIPRE Initiative) project that I designed, developed, and wrote the grant application for.

∴ An article in the field-leading journal European Journal of International Relations, available here.

∴ An article in the field-leading journal International Political Sociology, available here.

∴ A forthcoming article in the scholar-practitioner orientated journal International Review of the Red Cross.

Three forthcoming contributions to edited volumes, one entitled Hot Tea With Sugar and the Translation(s) of Torture (Forthcoming in Translations of Security, Berling TV., Gad, UP., Peterson, JL. and Wæver, O.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), another entitled The Futures Mutamash of the Middle East (Forthcoming In Transient Ontologies: An Ethnographic Patchwork of Middle East Futures, Riccardo B. and Mallard G.), and a third entitled The Chair Sits on the Man: The Non-Human Perpetration of Violence (Forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of Perpetrator Studies).

∴ Over three dozen academic and public presentations disseminating research findings.