Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2017. 276 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-0-9985318-4-7. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0166.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book + $22.00 in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Elisabeth Weber’s Kill Boxes offers a much needed and sobering take on the current conjuncture, immersing us in the deeply troubling practices of the war on terror — from indefinite detention to torture to targeted killing. Her lucid prose and rigorous engagement with an array of philosophical and cultural works challenge us to confront the most profound ethical dilemmas of our times while placing humanist critical inquiry at the epicenter of determining ways forward. Through a series of “shocks of recognition” — moments that open potential for acknowledging massive violations of individual rights — Weber helps us to decipher what it means to “live together” in the context of these ongoing atrocities. Brilliant, bold, and compassionate, the book is essential reading for those in the humanities and beyond.

~ Lisa Parks, Professor of Comparative Media Studies, MIT, and co-editor of Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (Duke, 2017)

Elisabeth Weber’s book urges us to recall what public responsibility looks like. It does so by retying the open knot between thorough political analysis and high theory. Pirouetting virtuosically between the literal and the metaphorical, surveillance, torture, and the literature of pain, ‘Kill Boxes’ reenforces our belief in language as the only path to ‘living together.’

~ Nitzan Lebovic, author of The Philosophy  of Life and Death: Ludwig Klages and the Rise of a Nazi Biopolitics and co-editor of Catastrophe: A History and Theory of an Operative Concept

Kill Boxes: Facing the Legacy of US-Sponsored Torture, Indefinite Detention, and Drone Warfare

Kill Boxes addresses the legacy of US-sponsored torture, indefinite detention, and drone warfare by deciphering the shocks of recognition that humanistic and artistic responses to violence bring to consciousness if readers and viewers have eyes to face them.

Beginning with an analysis of the ways in which the hooded man from Abu Ghraib became iconic, subsequent chapters take up less culturally visible scenes of massive violations of human rights to bring us face to face with these shocks and the forms of recognition that they enable and disavow. We are addressed in the photo of the hooded man, all the more so as he was brutally prevented, in our name, from returning the camera’s and thus our gaze. We are addressed in the screams that turn a person, tortured in our name, into howling flesh. We are addressed in poems written in the Guantánamo Prison camp, however much American authorities try to censor them, in our name. We are addressed by the victims of the US drone wars, however little American citizens may have heard the names of the places obliterated by the bombs for which their taxes pay. And we know that we are addressed in spite of a number of strategies of brutal refusal of heeding those calls.

Providing intensive readings of philosophical texts by Jean Améry, Jacques Derrida, and Christian Thomasius, with poetic texts by Franz Kafka, Paul Muldoon, and the poet-detainees of Guantánamo Bay Prison Camp, and with artistic creations by Sallah Edine Sallat, the American artist collective Forkscrew and an international artist collective from Pakistan, France and the US, Kill Boxes demonstrates the complexity of humanistic responses to crimes committed in the name of national security. The conscious or unconscious knowledge that we are addressed by the victims of these crimes is a critical factor in discussions on torture, on indefinite detention without trial, as practiced in Guantánamo, and in debates on the strategies to circumvent the latter altogether, as practiced in drone warfare and its extrajudicial assassination program.

The volume concludes with an Afterword by Richard Falk.

Read a Review of Kill Boxes in boundary 2 review Here!

One thought on “Kill Boxes: Facing the Legacy of US-Sponsored Torture, Indefinite Detention, and Drone Warfare

  • Thank you so much for this vital discussion. Since I was 16 in Chile and saw the destructive impacts of torture on people I knew who were tortured, torturers, and all of their family members, I have understood that torture hurts us all. When I later read the United States Senate Hearing reports at UCSB’s library and learned that experts had found torture was counterproductive even to intelligence gathering, I thought the sorry addictive behavior of torture practices would be eliminated. Nevertheless, the glorification of torture persisted in movies and television, making people believe it works, even though it doesn’t. To save dollars, communities, and our very humanity, taxpayers need to work together to remove torture practices from our armed services, law enforcement, and prisons immediately, or face the ugly consequences in our homes and communities. Thank you for this importany call to action!

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