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  • On the BodyTorture and Writing
  • L Felipe Alarcón (bio)

To write is to seek luck (la chance), and luck (la chance) is the search for writing.

—Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond (1992, 28)


“Let there be writing, not about the body, but the body itself ” (Nancy 2008, 9). According to Nancy, this was the program of Modernity. However, there is no program anymore, but only the “necessity, urgency” of these questions (9): How not to signify the body, how not to make it signify? How not to signify the body as presence or absence? We find this in the very first pages of Corpus. A few pages further, Nancy states that a discourse without a well-formed body is non-sense, it is what makes it make us loose our footing. An (a)phallic and (a)cephalic discourse. A fragmentary writing, for instance, of which Nancy says that it is “breaking into any language, where language touches on sense[End Page 247] (21). Touching, a very different thing from reading or writing. Because the body, we can touch it, but we can never write it or read it, unless we make of its insignificance a sign, unless we write on it with a continuous writing and we make it signify. As in torture.

This is precisely one of the topics treated by Juan Manuel Garrido in Chances de la pensée (2011). Taking as a starting point the concepts of body and of sacrifice as developed by Jean-Luc Nancy and Juan Manuel Garrido, we can begin to think torture and particularly torture in Chile. Because, as we know, repressive apparatuses, such as the one that took place in Chile, do not deal with bodies but with signs in charge of producing them, that is, writing on them and reading them. And of course, of giving them for us to read. Torture makes the tortured body signify. Above all, the violation is carried out to make it signify. This is the first thing we ought to know.

In “Le corps insacrifiable,” the fourth chapter of Chances de la penséewe find, for instance, the following:

Inasmuch as openness is the only integrity of bodies, the only possible violation of them would consist of projecting on them an interiority that could be penetrated. Violence on bodies would mean to take them back to an essentially non-exposed, non-extended inside, of which the body would be the phenomenon or the expression. The body, then, is not the pure and simple exposition—limit, exteriority, skin—, but the exterior sign that refers to or represents something else, a soul or a non-bodily spirit. The reality of the body becomes the reality of the passage to this non-corporeal entity: the passage of signification. The body becomes the body of the sign . . . to be violent with bodies means to become blind to their a-significant exposition, to their weight and to the senseless nakedness of their appearing.

(Garrido 2011, 92–93)

Something like speaking of the body, of making of it the body of something else. Making of it the body of the sign, as Garrido states, but this can only be made under the condition of making the body disappear.1 Thus we can read Romo’s declarations quoted by Garrido.2 There is the need of leaving no physical trace, but, so to speak, only a mental one. Above all, torture is psychological. But how did we get to assume that the body was in-significant [End Page 248] or a-significant, that it was exposition? To grasp this operation we will first have to comment on the immediately previous chapter, the third one, entitled “Le concept de corps.” It is also the longest one, and for that reason we will have to avoid several passages, omissions we hope will not greatly affect our reading.


In “Le concept de corps” we read: “Essentially, the body is something that appears, or that exposes itself, by the simple fact of being a body, that is, by the simple weight of the body” (Garrido 2011, 47). We find this in the first page of this chapter, so we...


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