Sites Unseen: Seeing the Racialized and Tortured Muslim Body in Law, Memoir, and Media
I question how the surviving prisoners and artifacts of the War on Terror challenge our perceptions of truth, the body, human rights, and the War on Terror at large. Through an understanding of how legal jargon is manipulated to fit into narratives of post 9/11 conflict, I debate our conceptions of the racialized Muslim body: what makes and unmakes a human, when a human becomes a body, and how does race and religion contribute to the unraveling of a prisoner. Errol Morris’ 2008 documentary Standard Operating Procedure interrogates the Abu Ghraib photo scandal and the United States’ response to the photos. Yet, by also showing several photographs and recreating several instances of torture, Morris forces us to question if we truly see torture or if we see standard operating procedure. Thus, I gather that Morris’ film not only questions the photos, but our search for truth and justice at the hands of a legal system that renders its victims invisible.Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idr’s 2017 dual narrative memoir Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantanamo frames the Muslim detainee as containing evidence and ultimately outlines the detainee as stateless a human, to be degraded into a body. Because the military attempts to break down the Muslim detainee into parts, into a body that has bodily functions, the outcome results in a highly visible detainee. Thus, both works attempt to rebuild the racialized Muslim body into something resembling a human so that we may see them not only in the context of the War on Terror, but also in the larger schema of state power over the racialized body. An understanding of both historical and legal context will further demonstrate our acceptance of our government’s actions, and how we are remembered for not only the harm inflicted upon hundreds of innocent lives, but also why we felt legally entitled to inflict that harm in the name of national security.
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