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‘Father of No One's Son’

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Abstract:

This article will relate the photographs of tortured prisoners from Iraq's Abu Ghraib gaol to the work of the Iraqi painter, Ayad Alkadhi. Whilst the images from Abu Ghraib have had an enormous impact around the world, it is argued that our ability to empathise with the suffering of Iraq's war victims is nonetheless undermined by popular Orientalist misconceptions regarding the ‘Arab mind’, the way such images are treated within the commercial media, and by the official self-exculpations of the former Bush administration. By comparison, Alkadhi's ‘Father of No One's Son’ series seeks to contextualise themes relevant to the Iraq war, so combating simplistic generalisations about Arab culture. In doing so, it is argued that Alkadhi's images indicate the proper conditions for empathy. Only when we have first contextualised the suffering of another people may we then place that suffering within the universal categories of human experience.

Keywords: Abu Ghraib; Arab culture; Arab mind; Ayad Alkadhi; Bernard Lewis; Orientalism; Raphael Patai; torture; war photography

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09528822.2011.573318

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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