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School of History

Jean-Jacques Courtine - 'The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib: the Evil of Banality and the History of the Emotions'

8 January 2019

Time: 6:00 - 7:00pm
Speaker: Jean-Jacques Courtine
Venue: ArtsTwo 2.17

Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor, Jean-Jacques Courtine, will give the third in a series of lectures entitled, 'The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. The Evil of Banality and the History of Emotions'.


The pictures of the tortures inflicted by American soldiers on Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib jail in 2003 have become global icons that cannot be easily erased from our collective memory. But once you get past the visual shock and disgust they inevitably provoke, you discover the complexity, as well as the many paradoxes, of their construction and of the range of emotions they involve. Among them lies the disturbing fact that this unprecedented series of pictures gives a strange impression of déjà vu. This lecture discusses authors such as Hannah Arendt, Norbert Elias, Susan Sontag or Giorgio Agamben and shows that there are other, older pictures lurking below the Abu Ghraib snapshots, ghost images from ordinary American mass culture, “regarding," as Sontag would say, "the pain of others.” And the most disturbing aspects of the Abu Ghraib photographs may well be that these distant images from a foreign war suddenly seem so close to home and that their strangeness feels so familiar.

Jointly organised by the School of History and the Centre for the History of Emotions.
All welcome but booking is essential.

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