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Following hard on ATHE, I presented a paper at the Performance Studies international conference in Copenhagen. I was on a panel titled “Trauma, Torture, Tourism” with LB and the remarkable Christina Schwenkel. LB was elaborating the theoretical foundations for her work on “Trauma Tourism” especially as it occurs around memorial aesthetics, and Christina talked mostly about John McCain’s torture biography as illuminated by her remarkable fieldwork in Vietnam.

I was worried that my paper would feel just tagged on, as “tourism” for me had been mainly a metaphor to briefly take up in exploring the thematics of the GWOT—for example, the use of tourism-derived euphemisms to describe rendition and imprisonment, or titles like “Torture Taxi.” But in pushing myself to look at tropes of travel and exoticism in representations of rendition (in the Omar Metwally film, for example, and David Gow’s play “Relative Good,” and some other things including a pretty disturbing computer game/interactive fiction piece called “Rendition”) I found that while the metaphor can be facile, articulating tourism and rendition as a pair has some value.

Chiefly, thinking about the two together remind us of the extent to which rendition is a neo-colonial practice on the part of the US. Rendition corrupts every nation we involve into proxy status, or at the very least exposes the unequal structure of our alliances. Think, for example, about what’s exposed by brave Italian prosecutors charging our clumsy CIA goons in absentia for the kidnapping of “Abu Omar,” or the pathetic protests to which the UK is reduced when we use Shannon or Diego Garcia for rendition flights. In torture as in tourism, we insist that the world is our playground…


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