"Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent": State Visions of Guantánamo Bay

Adelman, Rebecca A.
June 2013
Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture;2013, Vol. 12 Issue 4, p3
Academic Journal
Over the course of its Global War on Terror, the U.S. government has become gradually less secretive about its detention practices and less restrictive in its management of the visual culture of this war, even drawing some kinds of attention toward itself. These displays, in which the state ostensibly opens itself up to public surveillance under the guise of greater transparency, are laudable in some ways, and preferable in many respects to their predecessors. But as the state makes its workings more visible, it also enmeshes spectators in relations of looking that are differently problematic, and in this paper, I use the example of the evolving photographic and video archive of Guantánamo Bay to trace them out. Beginning with a reconsideration of the recent visual history of the detention facility, I ask how the turn toward greater government transparency is enacted at the site, and on or by the bodies of the detainees there. I analyze the official images that the state produces of Guantánamo and the complex ways that surveillance operates in this archive, specifically the 2010 and the 2011 versions of the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) website. These images document how the mandate of transparency settles on the prisoners themselves, which necessitates a rethinking of critical and resistant spectatorship in this situation where the state permits, and even invites us, to look as long and as hard as we please.


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