Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Detainee: Encountering Human Rights Discourse in Guantanamo

Research paper by Andreja Zevnik

Indexed on: 25 Mar '11Published on: 25 Mar '11Published in: Law and Critique


The Guantanamo detention facility, from its early days an emblem for human rights abuses, is a space where legal subjectivity of detainees is contested or even permanently suspended. This essay argues that we should look for the underlying rationale for this treatment not in the politicians who pursue intelligence, security, and strategic interest, or indeed even revenge for 9/11, but rather in the logic—or the ontology—that drives the present political and legal system. This is not to say, of course, that politicians play no role, or that they are mere ‘victims’ of social and political power relations—far from it; yet, it has to be acknowledged that the foundational assumptions on which the existing system operates create conditions of possibility for such degrading actions and exclusionary politics. This paper will first explore these philosophical foundations that enable such an understanding of exclusionary legal subjectivity as we see practiced in Guantanamo, amongst other places; secondly, it will search for an alternative logic of legal subjectivity as a ‘foundation’ for rights. Gilles Deleuze’s notion of ‘becoming’ as a potentially facilitative practice for an ‘open’ notion of legal subjectivity, as well as Alain Badiou’s account of ethics and evil, which points to a more ‘inclusive’ yet ‘situational’ understanding of human rights, will prove particularly useful here.