09 November 2010
A photograph by Edmund Clark from GITMO, published as part of a series at the Guardian. The image shows a mobile force-feeding chair.
I find prison technology like this to be amazingly complex and sublime. In one sense, the chair is foreboding, clinical, sterile. Yet it also seems almost cartoonish, reminding me for some reason of Droopy Dog. Ultimately, though, it speaks to excess—the excess power of the body and bodily death—power that even the imprisoned body can exude. Detention policy dictates that prisoners should not be allowed to starve themselves to death, foreclosing one of the main avenues for political resistance that remain available to the sequestered body. If the state loses control of the terms of death, the risk is that the prisoners, in some form, are given space to take control of their prison/bodies. This excess meaning generated by claiming the terms of one's own corporeal death (as opposed to their political death, which ostensibly occurred with their indefinite detention) can circulate in uncontrolled ways within and beyond the prison walls, and thus poses a unique threat that must be managed. The result: a force-feeding chair.