Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 13, Number 3, Fall 2022 

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The Major Humanitarian Dilemma of Neutrality: The International Committee of the Red Cross and Prisoners of War in Korea, 1950–1953
Jean-Michel Turcotte

This article examines how the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) addressed the complex issue of the 150,000 North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war (POW) detained by the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) during the Korean War (1950–1953). Based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, the treatment of POWs raised serious concerns regarding one of ongoing challenge for the ICRC: neutrality. As suggested in this article, delegates faced a major dilemma in providing humanitarian aid and protection to prisoners while preserving their neutrality. Examining the daily work of the ICRC reveals the scope of its humanitarian action in the conjuncture of the Korean War as well as their complex efforts to ensure that the captivity of POWs met the standards of the 1949 Geneva Convention.

A Managerial Humanitarianism: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Risk Management of Armed Violence in Greater Rio de Janeiro
Pedro Silva Rocha Lima

This paper analyzes an International Committee of the Red Cross program that instructs public service workers, and the municipal bureaucracies overseeing them, on how to assess and mitigate risks related to armed violence in their daily work in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I argue that this initiative represents a form of managerial humanitarianism primarily concerned with shaping the state's management of lives and with preparing groups of people to protect themselves. Here, armed violence is turned into an object of (risk) management, something to be addressed through risk assessments, behavioral protocols, and reporting mechanisms rather than through emergency relief.

Epistemics of Aid: Toward a Liminal Critique of Resilience in the Syrian Crisis
Malay Firoz

Humanitarian actors since the Syrian crisis have acknowledged that traditional emergency relief cannot meet the growing challenges of mass displacement. This article traces the political contradictions of the Resilience Agenda, a novel approach to humanitarian aid which claims to offer an integrated developmental solution to the needs of both Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. The article shows how resilience draws aid organizations into paradoxical relationships of cooperation and conflict with the very asylum states that undermine Syrian resilience, intensifying the structural clash between the rights of refugees and citizens as mutually exclusive categories of political concern.

Dossier: Cultural Renditions of Guantánamo and the War on Terror

Cultural Renditions of Guantánamo and the War on Terror
Alexandra S. Moore

This essay examines the Guantánamo Bay detention facility as a site and subject of intellectual and cultural production which can address aspects of the war on terror foreclosed by law and politics. The essay begins with prisoner Abu Zubaydah's recent petition to the US Supreme Court and arguments there about state secrets privilege to shield evidence of the CIA's Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program (2002–2009) from disclosure. Drawing on Bonnie Honig's theory of democratic deliberative processes and "public things," the essay then turns to Scottish creator/actor Freda O'Byrne's one woman play, Rendition, for its efforts to make the public secret of the RDI program into a forum for public deliberation. Rendition's blend of evidentiary and imaginative discourses introduces the dossier's larger themes of how prisoners used cultural expression to resist and survive abuse; cultural production as a window into Guantánamo's situatedness in the Global South; and the obligations that come with cultural production for those who survive their Guantánamo imprisonment. 

The Beautiful Guantánamo
Mansoor Adayfi

In "The Beautiful Guantánamo," Mansoor Adayfi, who was imprisoned for fourteen years there without charge, refutes the narratives and images carefully curated by the US government about its captives. Adayfi describes how men and boys speaking eighteen different languages and representing fifty nationalities shared their different cultures with one another and, through communal experiences, generated their own distinctive Guantánamo culture from 2002 to 2010. Beginning with the fear, estrangement, and abuse prisoners experienced upon their arrival, the author details how forming a common language and traditions in greetings, poetry, song, and dance created a brotherhood among those held and helped them to survive. From learning how to greet one another in their own languages to devising classes and cultural competitions, the prisoners forged a unique set of cultural practices to sustain themselves. The essay demonstrates how Guantánamo culture evolved as a mode of communication, self-expression, resistance, and survival and, in the process, as the author writes, ensured prisoners held on to the humanity that the prison sought to destroy.

The Detainee's Two Bodies: Intellectual Property and Fugitivity at Guantánamo Bay
Kalyan Nadiminti

The article argues that the denial of detainee intellectual property rights at Guantánamo Bay calls attention to new modalities of fugitivity and postcolonial citizenship. Examining paintings created by current and former detainees as well as Mohamedou Ould Slahi's redacted memoir Guantánamo Diary (2015/2017), the article poses two key questions: How do we understand the status of post-9/11 art made in captivity? And what is the significance of the claim of US state ownership over such art? Following Stephen Best's argument that US intellectual property laws were heavily influenced by Fugitive Slave Laws, the article theorizes "detainee copyright" to spotlight the political significance of detainees' artistic and cultural work against the state's fear of fugitive meaning. The triangulation of intellectual property, art and life-writing, and state censorship produces the detainee's two bodies: the material body shackled in indefinite detention and the metaphorical body demanding public circulation.

From Guantánamo to the Global South: Mohammed el-Gharani in Literature and Art
Esther Whitfield

This article discusses a poem, a performance, and a comic book related to the life of Mohammed el-Gharani, a Black Muslim citizen of Chad held at Guantánamo for seven years beginning at the age of fourteen. It argues that while the fragmented authorship and dispersal of these creative pieces distinguishes them from a more established corpus of detainee memoirs, they perform important work alongside this corpus in highlighting solidarities between detainees and residents of Cuba, on the one hand, and Black members of the US military who guard Guantánamo's cellblocks, on the other.

This Is What It Looks Like: Searching for Law's Afterlife in Guantánamo
Safiyah Rochelle

This article considers the role of visual materials in the afterlife of extraordinary state violence. It locates a series of drawings by Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah as embedded within and counter to the camp's existing visual grammar, where images of the camp and detainees work alongside state and legal violence to form the complex of forces that mark detainees as subjects to and subjects of (legal) death. Within these relations, detainee-produced drawings are vivid reminders of the tortured and forgotten bodies of state violence, and also the matter against which legal and political limits are both withdrawn and extended.

My Guantánamo Writing Seminar
Mohamedou Ould Slahi

In this essay, Mohamedou Ould Slahi reflects on how fifteen years of indefinite detention, torture, and abuse in the war on terror contributed to his development as a writer. He discusses the ways in which solitary confinement and other rules governing his captivity in a prison in Jordan and for fourteen years at Guantánamo forced him to keenly observe his surroundings and to conjure characters and stories from the smallest of details in his material life, from the most mundane interactions with guards, interrogators, and other prison personnel, and from dreams. Stitching these bits into narrative came about through listening to guards and other detainees tell their stories and from consuming approved television and film, often alongside the guards. For the author, writing both fiction and nonfiction provided an outlet for mental torment, but also created intense feelings of freedom, of imaginative life beyond cell walls. At the same time, he reflects on his role as a writer who survived Guantánamo as one of obligation to the memory of the many other young men who were disappeared and sometimes killed in the war on terror.