Conclusion: Theaters of Memory
and the Violence of Citizenship
Torture forms part of a ritual. It is an element in the liturgy of punishment and
meets two demands. It must mark the victim: it is intended, either by the scar it
leaves on the body, or by the spectacle that accompanies it, to brand the victim with
infamy. . . . In any case, men will remember public exhibition, the pillory, torture
and pain duly observed. And, from the point of view of the law that imposes it,
public torture and execution must be spectacular, it must be seen by all almost as its
triumph. The very excess of the violence employed is one of the elements of its
glory: the fact that the guilty man should moan and cry out under the blows is not a
shameful side-e√ect, it is the very ceremonial of justice being expressed in all its
force. . . . Justice pursues the body beyond all possible pain.—Michel Foucault,
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
In his writing on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European tech-
niques for the punishment of criminals and the prosecution of justice,
Foucault (1977) identified the public execution as a form of political
ritual, an instrument intended not only to punish the wrongdoer but to
express and reinforce the sovereign’s power to govern. For Foucault, all
crime is ultimately an attack not just on crime’s victims but on the state
whose law the criminal violates, and hence an attack on the prince him-
self; by violating the law, the criminal flaunts the authority of the prince
to make the law and rule the land. Thus, the public execution was
designed to be a highly visible demonstration of the prince’s might
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