Reviews of poetry written by Guantanamo detainees foreclose the aesthetic potential of the poems, and, as a result, contribute to contemporary human rights discourse’s depoliticization of the subject of human rights. Considering the poems within the field of “post-9/11 literature,” the essay proposes that the poems place the question of how to read the writing of the enemy at the center of this literature’s concern with the traumatic and affective consequences of 9/11. Instead of reading the poetic speaker within the framework of the “state of exception,” the essay asks how a political subject emerges from a position of “assumed guilt.” The enemy combatant denotes not only the unnamable negativity of empire, but the duplicity of this position of being assumed guilty and of assuming guilt for the crimes of others. The ambiguity of the enemy combatant as poetic speaker resists discernible efforts to provide a “close-up” of the figure of the terrorist turned victim. The poems work critically in a place otherwise rife with naïve assumptions about the self-evidence of testimony in expressive work. Along these lines, they are not merely documents of barbarism--neither of the barbarism suspected of them, nor of the barbarism of captivity to which they testify--but they are works that think through this “final stage” of the dialectic of culture and barbarism in post-9/11 culture.

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