Thursday, March 17, 2011
Abstract for paper
Lynndie England’s famous photograph of her pointing at nude prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison with her
thumbs up, cigarette in mouth, and a smile on her face has become an icon of torture on the Internet. If
one types in “doing a Lynndie” on Google, hundreds of images appear of people in the same pose pointing at an assortment of objects and people. England has become a notorious public figure, but little is popularly known about her as a person. This paper examines the production of the affective atmosphere surrounding England’s image and its growth as an Internet meme. Importantly, this paper also look at the effects of the production of this image on her life after the Abu Ghraib scandal. This paper is most concerned about the affective nature of images and how they can create multiple meaning and material effects for both the individuals in the image and the repetition and parody by others. Throughout the paper, this paper uses and challenge notions of the subaltern in order to explore the many nuances of power within her story. We argue that while England is considered the oppressor of those being tortured at Abu Ghraib, she is part of a system of domination that simultaneously dominates her life. She, in some regards, is part of a subaltern group as well. Her image is frozen in time as an instigator of torture and yet larger systems of gendered oppression remain unchallenged. Also, her image has transcended beyond the scandal and has become a parody on the internet. This paper argues that while the Internet can be liberating in terms of challenging systems of domination, it can also reinforce them through de-contextualization.