Dr Nick Cheesman1, Associate Professor Bina D’Costa1, Dr Annie Pohlman2, Dr Jacqui Baker3, Dr Rus’an Nasrudin4
1Australian National University, Australia, 2University of Queensland, Australia, 3Murdoch University, Australia, 4Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia
Chair: Nick Cheesman
Why study torture in Asia? And how? Each of the speakers in this panel addresses these questions differently. Their sources are diverse. They range from activist archives in Jakarta to court transcripts in Bangkok, from a famous Bengali novel, to a state-produced data set of police shootings in Indonesia. Their methods and goals also differ: from network analysis to posit a relationship between police shootings and torture, to archival work aimed at identifying patterns of torture under military dictatorship; from interpretive reading of facts about torture rendered as prize-winning fiction, to textual interpretation of facts about torture rendered in the state’s idiom. Where they converge is on the view that in our time torture has been not epiphenomenal but integral to state practice in South and Southeast Asia; and, in agreement that documenting and interpreting torture calls for exactly the kind of diversity in methods, sources and goals that the papers presented adopt.