Advertisement

Distributed agency, responsibility and preventing grave wrongs

  • Danielle CelermajerEmail author
Article
  • 29 Downloads

Abstract

Despite the theoretical uptake of ontological schemas that do not tie agency uniquely to individual humans, these new ontological geographies have had little penetration when it comes to designing institutions to prevent grave wrongs. Moreover, our persistent intuitions tie agency and responsibility to individuals within a figuration of blame. This article seeks to connect new materialist and actor network theories with the design of institutions that seek to prevent torture. It argues that although research into the causes and conditions of torture points to the inadequacy of agent-centric explanations, the preponderance of prevention interventions emphasize the role of individual human agents. New materialist and ANT approaches could afford a rich theoretical underpinning for prevention approaches by addressing the broad ecology of causal factors. Drawing on Spinoza, the article considers the affective impediments to the uptake of understandings and their correlate practices that require moving beyond agent-centric explanations for grave wrongs. So long as anger, indignation and blame colonize the individual and broader institutional spheres, they will almost inevitably bind us to a particular type of inadequate causal analysis and make other types of preventative responses appear as derelictions of our duty to hold wrongdoers responsible for their acts.

Keywords

distributive agency new materialist theory actor network theory torture Spinoza affect 

Notes

References

  1. Appadurai, A. (2015) Mediants, materiality, normativity, Public Culture 27: 221–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arendt, H. (1963) Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  3. Arendt, H. (1994) A reply to Eric Voegelin. In: J. Kohn (ed.) Essays in Understanding. New York: Schocken Books.Google Scholar
  4. Arendt, H. (n.d.) On the nature of totalitarianism: An essay in understanding. In: The Hannah Arendt Articles at the Library of Congress, Essays and Lectures (Series: Speeches and Writings File, 1923–1975).Google Scholar
  5. Austin, J.L. (2016) Torture and the material-semiotic networks of violence across borders. International Political Sociology 10: 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Austin, J.L. and Bocco, R. (2016) Becoming a torturer: Towards a global ergonomics of care. International Review of the Red Cross 98: 859–888.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barad, K. (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bennett, J. (2005) The agency of assemblages. Public Culture 17: 445–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bennett, J. (2009) Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Braun, B., Whatmore, S.J. and Stengers, I. (2010) Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  11. Byrnes, A. (1992) The committee against torture. In: P. Alston (ed.) The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Carver, R. and Handley, L. (2016) Does Torture Prevention Work? Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Celermajer, D. (2018) The Prevention of Torture: An Ecological Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chagani, F. (2014) Critical political ecology and the seductions of posthumanism. Journal of Political Ecology 21: 424–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clegg, S.R, Pina e Cunha, M., Rego, A. and Dias, J. (2013) Mundane objects and the banality of evil: The sociomateriality of a death camp. Journal of Management Inquiry 22: 325–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Connolly, W.E. (2002) Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  17. Crelinsten, R.D. (2003) The world of torture: A constructed reality. Theoretical Criminology 7: 293–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gilbert, M. (2006) Who’s to blame? Collective moral responsibility and its implications for group members. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 30: 94–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hackman, J.R. (2012) From causes to conditions in group research. Journal of Organizational Behavior 33: 428–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haraway, D.J. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haraway, D.J. (2008) When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  22. Huggins, M.K., Haritos-Fatouros, M. and Zimbardo, P.G. (2002) Violence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian Atrocities. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jefferson, A. and Jensen, S. (2009) State Violence and Human Rights: State Officials in the South. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Johnson, D.A. and Pearson, N.L. (2009) Tactical mapping: How nonprofits can identify the levers of change. Nonprofit Quarterly 16: 92–99.Google Scholar
  25. Kahneman, D. and Egan, P. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  26. Kelman, H.C. (1989) Crimes of Obedience: Toward a Social Psychology of Authority and Responsibility. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kohn, E. (2013) How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Krause, S.R. (2011) Bodies in action: Corporeal agency and democratic politics. Political Theory 39: 299–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lacey, N. (1988) State Punishment. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Latour, B. (1996) On interobjectivity. Mind, Culture, and Activity 3: 228–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Latour, B. (2004) Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Ludwig Bolzmann Institute for Human Rights. (2018) Atlas of torture. https://www.atlas-of-torture.org/page/ilak7rm312z5y50p8qhxb6gvi, accessed 1 August.
  34. May, L. (1992) Sharing Responsibility. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Milgram, S. (1974) Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. Manhattan: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  36. Munasinghe, V. and Celermajer, D. (2017) Acute and everyday violence in Sri Lanka. Journal of Contemporary Asia 47: 615–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nowak, M. (1998) On the prevention of torture. In: D. Bertil (ed.) An End to Torture: Strategies for Its Eradication. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  38. Nowak, M., McArthur, E. and Buchinger, K. (2008) The United Nations Convention Against Torture: A Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pina e Cunha, M., Clegg, S. and Rego, A. (2014) The ethical speaking of objects: Ethics and the “objective” world of Khmer Rouge young comrades. Journal of Political Power 7: 35–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rejali, D. (2009) Torture and Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Roth, K. (2004) Defending economic, social and cultural rights: Practical issues faced by an international human rights organization. Human Rights Quarterly 26: 63–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schiff, J.L. (2014) Burdens of Political Responsibility: Narrative and the Cultivation of Responsiveness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shue, H. (2005) Torture in dreamland: Disposing of the ticking bomb. Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 37: 231.Google Scholar
  44. Spinoza, B. (1985) Collected Works of Spinoza. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Strawson, P.F. (2008) Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tibbitts, F. (2002) Understanding what we do: Emerging models for human rights education. International Review of Education 48: 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tilly, C. (1999) The trouble with stories. In: B. Pescosolido and R. Aminzade (eds.) The Social Worlds of Higher Education. Handbook for Teaching in a New Century. Pine Ford Press.Google Scholar
  48. Von Hirsch, A., Wikstrom, P.-O., Burney, E., Bottoms, A.E. and Von Hirsch, A. (1999) Criminal Deterrence and Sentence Severity. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  49. Wahl, R. (2016) In the Eye of the Torturer. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Williams, C. (2017) Unravelling the subject with Spinoza: Towards a morphological analysis of the scene of subjectivity. Contemporary Political Theory 16: 342–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Young, I.M. (2006) Responsibility and global justice: A social connection model. Social Philosophy and Policy 23: 102–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zimbardo, P. (2007) The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. Nw York: Random House.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social PolicyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations