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New Resources: January 29, 2014

2014 January 30

Music as Torture

The latest issue of Torture, the quarterly journal of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, has an unusual focus: music as a means of torture — yet sometimes also as a strategy of resistance.

“Despite the tendency to focus on music’s benign and positive role, we are confronted today with clear disclosures of its role in torture and human rights violations. Recent revelations of music’s use in the detention and interrogation centres of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ have underlined music’s potential to wound and cause suffering…Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib have attracted global media attention, but by no means are they unique cases. Is it music in itself or the high volume and repetition that transform it into torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment…?”

“Can the use of music in detention be beneficial for the prisoners,” ask the edition’s editors, Anna Papaeti and M.J. Grant, in their introduction, “or is it always aligned with an intention to subdue, break, and often ridicule them?”

wall-1All but one of the articles in the journal focus on uses of music for purposes of punishment or torture. The exception, by Johann Buis, looks at the positive use of song and dance by Nelson Mandela and other prisoners in South Africa’s Robben Island prison during the apartheid period. “He suggests that music and dance formed an internal cultural grounding for the political prisoners,” write the editors, “which not only enabled their survival in prison, but was also instrumental in shaping public policy later on when Mandela chose forgiveness instead of retribution during his term as president.”

All articles in the current issue of Torture, are available free online, as are back issues from the journal’s archive. You can also sign up to receive email notices of each new issue, or to subscribe to the print edition.

While you’re on the IRCT website, check out the Testimonies Wall for first-hand stories from survivors of torture around the world.

wall-2Psychological Assessment

“Torture is widely prohibited — and widely practiced,” writes Kenneth S. Pope in his valuable article, Psychological Assessment of Torture Survivors.  “Those who conduct psychological assessments of people who have been tortured face complex challenges in reaching conclusions that are valid and useful.” The essay sets out to provide guidelines to achieving accurate assessments, that can lead to appropriate and effective treatment. I suspect that I’ve mentioned this resource before, but it has been updated somewhat, so is worth bringing to your attention again. Ken offers the article free online, but notes that it has also been published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 35.

(The photos in this post are from the IRCT Testimonies wall – see above.)

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