Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rachel Wahl's "Just Violence"

Rachel Wahl is Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at the University of Virginia.

Here she shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of her new book, Just Violence: Torture and Human Rights in the Eyes of the Police:
My mother tells me that when I was a child, I watched the film version of Don Quixote with her. Only I could barely watch it, because I incessantly demanded to know who in the film was “good” and who “bad.” My ten-year-old self apparently couldn’t stand the moral ambiguity of a film in which characters were too complex for such distinctions.

Has nothing or everything changed between my early encounter with the windmill-fencing knight and my book on how police understand their own violence? The book, in essence, asks the same question, but with an expanded way to answer it. I ask whether police who use torture understand themselves morally, and if so, of what that moral understanding consists. I examine what this self-understanding means for the moral crusades that I still stand behind: human rights efforts to prevent torture.

So, I don’t know who I would choose to play the police officers in my book. I know that I would want to avoid the heroes and the villains, even as I would affirm the heroic nature of the struggle to prevent torture and the horror of torture itself. But I would hope for actors who could do what the best do so well: show the human behind the act.
Learn more about Just Violence at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue