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Det omänskliga lidandets diskurs: En diskussion kring FN:s definition av tortyrbegreppet i dialog med postkolonial teori
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2015 (Swedish)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis has been to discuss whether remainders of colonial influences exist within the UN's definition of torture or not. The discussion has been presented from a postcolonial point of view, in dialogue with contemporary power critical theorists. In order to raise awareness of a potential colonial influence, the following questions were intended to be answered:

–                                        Are there any reasons, if so – which ones, to regard the UN's definition of torture as a colonial project? And;

–                                        To what extent is the term “inhumane” limiting for the prohibition against torture from a postcolonial perspective?

One of the most central arguments of the chosen theories is that the term “inhumane” evokes prejudices that a racializing apparatus within the social norms of the UN automatically produces. These prejudices are, according to the theorists, influenced by images of people in non-western and non-secular (especially muslim) societies as more prone to exercise “violence” and “cruelty” towards their own citizens as well as towards the population of the world in general. Thereby, these people's state of being leave them with no access to the human rights – they are not acting in a humane way and are therefore not allowed to be treated humanely. Even though the reasoning of the theorists are understandable at a theoretical and emotional level, the language of the convention against torture leaves no substantial evidence for this assumed cultural bias and colonial tendency.


Where the theories point out some human suffering as excluded from the definition, the solutions on how to include more aspects of suffering might be too intangible to be sustainable within the context of international law. One of the theorists however, Talal Asad, makes an appealing effort by introducing a paragraph of consent within the definition of torture. A paragraph of consent makes it, according to him, easier to account for emotional experiences of suffering. At the same time it makes it possible to exercise self-selected suffering (such as religious rituals and certain sexual preferences) between two or more consenting adults, without them being stigmatized within the discourse of suffering. By introducing the paragraph of consent and the elimination of the word “cruel” (because of its tendency of being linked to racializing factors) from the definition, Asad's  argumentation points out a way to possibly improve the prohibition to include more aspects of suffering.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 63 p.
Keyword [sv]
Tortyr, Omänsklig behandling, Postkolonial teori, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Talal Asad, Judith Butler, Mattias Gardell
National Category
Other Humanities
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-254736OAI: diva2:819451
Subject / course
Human Rights
Educational program
Master Programme in Human Rights
Available from: 2015-06-11 Created: 2015-06-10 Last updated: 2015-06-11Bibliographically approved

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