GUANTANAMO BOY AND THE TASK OF CRITIQUE
This essay critiques the way in which Anna Perera's Young Adult novel Guantanamo Boy (2009) frames its anti-torture critique.
From the introduction:
"This essay reads Anna Perera’s young adult novel Guantanamo Boy (2009), an anti-torture intervention “for kids”, which represents and criticizes the state torture perpetrated at the American military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My central argument here is that Guantanamo Boy, and the political position of which it is a narrative iteration, represents a limited condemnation of torture. That is, although it provides a critique of torture and of Guantanamo Bay, which is in many ways compelling, the novel fails to address adequately the way that those who justify torture decisively frame the debate and, as such, it does not engage clearly enough with the surprisingly resilient questions that such texts raise. This essay unpicks the precise message of Guantanamo Boy’s anti-torture pedagogy and critique: my main concerns here are first, with the narrative frame through which the text critiques both the context and techniques of torture, and second, with the equivocal representation of Islam and Muslims found in the text. In these two respects, I argue, the book does some effective political work. However, this work is based on an intellectually and ethically timid critique that fails to address the ideological foundations and argumentative complexities of the positions assumed by those who would justify or normalize torture."