This article offers a critique of the recently declassified U.S. Department of Justice memorandum that authorized the CIA to torture the suspected al-Qa'idah member Abu Zubaydah by placing him in a confinement box with an insect. The CIA claims that this form of coercive interrogation, which targeted the detainee's purported entomophobia, was never actually carried out; however the memo's rationale for the technique reveals the ways in which logics of species, race, sexuality, and disability co-produce technologies of biopower and economies of affect within contemporary US imperial formations. The caterpillar imagined in the memo reveals a logic of security that attempts to redistribute the affective violence of terrorism by producing fear in the detainee and targeted populations, while simultaneously confirming a racialized equation of torture and truth. The article situates this imagined transspecies torture scene within an emergent posthumanist utopianism among state and capital formations and critiques posthumanist discourses that celebrate the alterity of animal bodies as a signpost for an affirmative biopolitics. Arguing that animal life is too often mobilized by state and capital formations against racialized populations targeted for premature death, the article instead traces subsumed logics of embodiment within two sites of cultural production: detainee poetry and writings on animal embodiment. From these two very different domains, it argues for an alternative theory of space, sensation, and connectivity that breaks with the specifically visual metaphors through which both biopower and critical theories of embodiment conceptualize difference.
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Neel Ahuja; Abu Zubaydah and the Caterpillar. Social Text 1 March 2011; 29 (1 (106)): 127–149. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-1210292
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