SPECIAL ISSUE: STATES OF VIOLENCE
Racial Terror: Torture and Three Teenagers in Prison
Sherene H. Razack
University of Toronto
Omar Khadr is a Canadian of Muslim/Arab origin. Held since 15 at Guantanamo and now incarcerated in Canada, Khadr’s life in prison mirrors the lives of Ashley Smith and Kinew James in many ways. Ashley Smith, a white teenager who had been imprisoned since 15, tied a ligature around her neck and strangled herself as several guards watched and the event was captured on video. In their dealings with Ashley, prison guards often wore combat gear, of the kind familiar to us in military encounters, and treated Ashley as detainees such as Omar Khadr are treated in the ‘war on terror’. Kinew James was a 35-year-old Aboriginal woman who, at the time of her death in January 2013, had spent half her life in jail, beginning as a teenager. She was often kept in solitary confinement and had threatened multiple times to hang herself. On the evening of her death, she reportedly cried for help for an hour about pains in her stomach. Ignored, she died of a heart attack one hour later. Each of these three teenagers was incarcerated as a teenager and each endured torture and a systematized indifference and brutality defended as necessary. In this article I consider how we might understand the power imprinted on their incarcerated bodies as a collective phenomenon of racial terror, a terror that has a central role to play in the making of modern life. Invited by the editors of this issue of borderlands to consider the work of Joseph Pugliese, I bring Pugliese’s extraordinary attentiveness to the tortured body to my consideration of the role of racial violence and terror in the making of the modern.
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© borderlands ejournal 2014