Prisoners of Conscience
Moral Vernaculars of Political Agency
Publication Year: 2012
Hauser explores how modes of resistance employed by these prisoners constitute what he deems a “thick moral vernacular” rhetoric of human rights. Hauser’s work considers in part how these prisoners convert universal commitments to human dignity, agency, and voice into the moral vernacular of the society and culture to which their rhetoric is addressed.
Hauser grounds his study through a series of case studies, each centered on a different rhetorical mechanism brought to bear in the act of resistance. Through a transnational rhetorical analysis of resistance within political prisons, Hauser brings to bear his skills as a rhetorical theorist and critic to illuminate the rhetorical power of resistance as tied to core questions in contemporary humanistic scholarship and public concern.
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
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Table of Contents
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Series Editor's Preface
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Gerard A. Hauser’s study in Prisoners of Conscienceof what he terms the “thick moralvernacular of human rights” is a work of erudition, scrupulous theoretical reasoning,patient critical analysis, and profound moral seriousness. In his 1999 book Vernacu-lar Voices: The Rhetoric of Publics and Public Spheres, also published in this series, Pro-fessor Hauser developed an account of “publics theory,” an understanding of how...
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This study began on Chios, before I was born. John Michalakes was a gunrunner inthe Greek resistance against Turkish occupation of the island. In 1822, the islandersliving on Chios joined the Greek War of Independence agains Ottoman rule. Theysuffered massive casualties in the ensuing massacre. Fully 100,000 of the island’s120,000 Greek inhabitants were killed, expelled, or enslaved. The lingering animo -...
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This project has been in the back of my mind since the waning days of the Cold War,when Polish and Czech dissidents were writing letters and essays concerned with avision of civil society and Northern Ireland was being ravaged by the “Troubles.” Itgrew with the emancipation of South Africa from an apartheid state. Its outline clar-ified with Abu Ghraib and publication of the torture memos. During the interven-...
Part I. Theoretical Probes on a Moral Vernacular Rhetoric of Human Rights
1. Reclaiming Voice
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During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln invoked the president’s war powers toauthorize suspending the writ of habeas corpus when disturbances to abet theSouth’s insurrection seemed to compromise the Union’s military action. Lincoln’sactions were both extravagantly blessed and hideously cursed. During the George W.Bush administration, U.S. policies of detention and interrogation of suspected mem-bers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda evoked similar responses. Their initiation in 2001...
2. Human Rights and Human Rights Talk
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The world had hoped the end of the Cold War would usher in an era of peaceand an end to human rights abuses. The Soviet empire had collapsed, thepeoples of East and West Germany had pounded the Berlin Wall to rubble, theemerging Internet’s disregard for national borders had made information control sig-nificantly more difficult, and the lure of a market economy, aided by the new mediaof information technology, had connected former adversaries and longtime partners...
3. Thick Moral Vernacular and Human Rights
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Beginning in 1942, the Nazis invented a new way to dehumanize Jews and gyp-sies. At Auschwitz and in the Lagers, registration numbers, which already weresewn on the prisoners’ clothing, were now tattooed onto their left forearms. Soon thetattoos were further coded to mark each prisoner’s identity with greater precision.Men were tattooed on the outside of the arm, women on the inside. Gypsies had theirnumbers preceded by the letter Z, Jews reporting from the beginning of May 1944...
Part II. Case Studies in a Thick Moral Vernacular of Political Agency
4. Parrhesia at Robben Island: Prison Reform from the Inside
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In 1994, South Africa became an inclusive democracy. That there is a democracyin South Africa is a testimony to political vision and perseverance in the strugglethat overthrew apartheid. With most opposition leaders imprisoned and its citizensof color subjected to the harsh social, economic, and political realities of the Afrikanerregime, the odds were stacked against organizing a successful resistance movement;they were even greater against a spirit of truth and reconciliation prevailing should...
5. Women of the Small Zone and a Rhetoric of Indirection
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On October 9, 1986, the Soviet Union released Ukrainian poet and dissidentIrina Ratushinskaya from the Mordovian labor camp at Barashevo where shewas serving a seven-year sentence for her conviction under Article 70 of the KGBcriminal code for “Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.” Her release was unex-pected. She had served just three-and-a-half years of her sentence, and was subject tofive years exile after her release before she could return to her home in Kiev. With the...
6. Passive Aggression of Bodily Sufficiency: The H-Blocks Hunger Strike of 1981
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Pain resists language. It is a personal experience, something privately encountered,something the sufferer grasps with ease, something experienced as real, butsomething that cannot be shared. Grasping another’s pain takes effort; it has to betranslated into language, which can only offer a pale representation. In her classicstudy The Body in Pain,Elaine Scarry observes that this utter rigidity of pain makes“its resistance to language . . . not simply one of its incidental or accidental attributes...
7. Display Rhetoric and the Fantasia of Demonstrative Displays: The Dissident Rhetoric of Prisoner 885/63
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The prison memoir poses tricky rhetorical problems. The author’s identity mat-ters. Irina Ratushinskaya had a public identity as a poet, and her identity at -tracted sufficient public notice of her sentence and incarceration in Barashevo Prisoncamp that her treatment there could intrude on plans for the Reykjavik summitbetween Presidents Gorbachev of the USSR and Reagan of the United States. NelsonMandela’s international celebrity linked his sentence at Robben Island with continu-...
8. Quo Vadis America: National Conscience in Framing Prisoner Bodies at Abu Ghraib&
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On January 10, 2008, the U.S. Army threw out the conviction of the only offi-cer court-martialed in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, Col. Steven L.Jordan. Jordan, who had previously been acquitted of charges that he failed to super-vise the eleven lower-ranked soldiers convicted for their roles in the abuse of Iraqiprisoners, had been found guilty of disobeying an order not to talk about the inves-tigation. The jury recommended a criminal reprimand, the lightest possible sentence....
9. The Moral Vernacular of Political Agency
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The concepts of civilization and barbarism ride in tandem throughout Westernhistory. Walter Benjamin observed, “There is no document of civilization thatis not at the same time a document of barbarism” (1969, 256). The rhetoric of politi-cal prisoners asserts in reply, “That is because what appears as civilization often isbarbarism all the way down.” The state’s responses to those who are imprisoned foracts of dissent are reflections of what is happening in the larger society, and if barbar-...
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About the Author
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GERARD A. HAUSER is a College Professor of Distinction in the Department ofCommunication at the University of Colorado Boulder. Editor of the journal Philo -sophy and Rhetoric,Hauser is the author of Introduction to Rhetorical Theoryand Ver-nacular Voices: The Rhetoric of Publics and Public Spheres. He is a distinguished scholarof the National Communication Association and a fellow of the Rhetoric Society of...
Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication