Comfort, irony, and trivialization: The mediation of torture

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This article examines the interrelationship of torture and comfort as a key feature of the United States project of American Empire, examining how the U.S. practice of torture is mediated in American culture, in particular through the distancing strategies of domestication, trivialization, kitschification, and irony. It uses as a framing concept Roger Silverstone's notion of 'proper distance', in particular its formulation of the relationship of mediation to morality, to examine the mechanisms in American culture that enable a level of comfort with the practice of torture. Through an examination of the image icons of the Abu Ghraib prison and the representations of torture at Guantánamo Bay prison, including popular culture representations, trivializing rhetoric, artistic engagements, and kitsch souvenirs, this article analyzes the tensions of proximity and distance that mediate the U.S. practice of torture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-440
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • image
  • kitsch
  • media
  • nation
  • proximity
  • torture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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