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Body Rhetoric: Conflicted Reporting

of Bodies in Pain
Gerard A. Hauser

In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt (1958, 50-51) makes an argument for
differentiating a world of personal experiences that are privately encountered and,
therefore, real ro no one but the individual who has them and those that are com-
monly encountered and, therefore, worldly realities for all those who share them.
To make this distincrion concrcce, she points to the utterly undeniable but equally
unsharable personal experience of pain. Arendt reminds us that great bodily pain is
both the most intense of human feelings and "at the same time the most private and
least communicable of all." Yet, even though intense pain can deprive us of our ability
to feel reality, once relieved it can be instantly forgotten. "Pain, in other words, truly
a borderline experience between life as 'being among men' (inter homillc', c''(J'r) and
death, is so subjective and removed from the world of things and men that it can-
not assume an appearance at all" (51).
Arendt's formulation of pain's utter privacy seems unassailable as long as we re-
strict pain to the actual physical suffering of a body in distn:.~), hur what of the power
of a body in pain ro form deep and powerful identification among an audience that
feels empathy for the sufferer's anguish? In addition to the utH.'rly private and
unshared experience of the body's own pain, there also arC' rhetorical and
political dimensions to pain that, regrettably, Arendt did not addrt'ss. Without re-
futing her point, we would err to deny the suffering body's impr(')~ive rhetorical
potential. As the twentieth century has taught us, bodies in pain are a tragic con-
stant of the public realm. It also has taught us that despite exerting impressive rhe-
torical force that exhorts humanity to relieve their suffering, sometimes thelr pleas
go unheard and their suffering g(h':" ignored. Whatever else politics might include,
democracy ties it inexorably to our capacity [0 invenr and respond (0 responsible
rhetoric, including [he rhetorical power of bodies in pain.


Regarding the body as a rherorical site is nor new. Homer's The Ilirld (1990) im-
merses the reader in heroic actions that often convey rhe.' Ilrfte of its chdfacters and
strong emotions that accompany their deeds [hrough corporeal reference. In Book
5, for example, Homer structures his narrativ{' l)f a world in chaos through the ana-
tomical destruction wrought by spear, arrow, and club during full-scale combat be-
fore Troy's gate. His graphic depiction of Acheans and Trojans meeting their demise
made each individual body', destruction synecdochic for the devastation that war
was visiting on Attica and Troy. His battlefield scene fastens the physical piercing
and breaking of flesh and bone w the devastation each death visited on that warrior's
family and its world.
More academically, since antiquity the rhewrical canon of delivery 11.1, included
gesture and posture among its sources of influence. Rhewric's oral tradition contin-
ues to theorize discourse in a manner that, at least implicitly, acknowledges its worldly
appearance as an embodied performance. At the opposite pole from public perfor-
mance and do~er w our own time, Sigmund Freud's theory of psychopathology es-
tablished the pleasure principle as the basic motivation for individual conducr,
thereby wedding the body inescapably to the formation of subjectivity and an ex-
planatory mechanism for human acrion.
Explicit attempts w theorize the body as a dis:cllr~iw formation are, how(:\,<:r, rela-
tively rt'cC(1(, with a flood of work since the mid-1960s. Most prominent among th(,
conrriblltions to our understanding of bodies as contested sites are the writings of
feminiM intellectuals and of Michel Foucault. As Randi Paterson and Gail Corning
(1997. 6} observe, feminist scholarship has made a massive contribution to our
lInder~tanding of the body as a discursive construction that extends beyond tht'
province~ of medicine and psychology, and they provide an annotated bibliograph~'
of more than thirty recent scholarly works in which this extension is elaborated. The
Foucaldean exploration of the other as insane (Foucault 197.:n, <IS subjected to till"
medical gaze (FIHIC~lult 1975), as disciplined through panoptic surveillance (Foucault
1979), and as a sl'xuality defined through confession to a higher authority (Follcault
1980) is a monumellt to the body as a discursive formation. Through its discursive
construction, the body becomes an object of desire whose appropriation authorize'-
knowledge and power.
Feminist and postsrructuralist re~~'Jrch is not alone in centering a discu~sion ot
meaning and influence, which is to say a discussion of knowledge and power, on
the body. Richard Sennett's Flesh and Stone: The BotJ.r I1l1d the Ci~y in Wi-.ilrm Cit-iii·
Zillion (1994) chronicles how symbolic representations of architecture and urban
design historically have reflected cultural understandings and attitudes toward the
body. Likewise, Gilles Lipovctsk)"~ The Empire of Fmhion: Drtssing Modem DeJllo(-
rac)' (1994) details a similar relationship between cultural understanding of the both,
and the way it is displayed as an object of social attraction and influence. Elaine'
Scarry's TIn' Bod)' hi Pail1: 71u !vft1king and l./nmttking of the World (] ':.>85) offers a
meditation on our search for bnguage capable of giving voice to the b()dy'~ vulner-
ability. Russian poet I rina Ratushinskaya's Crq Is the Color ,{Hope (1989) takes thl'

reader into the surrealistic labor camp ;'It BM,IShcvo, in which its \\(Imen prisoners
of conscience used their bndics as contl.';-.rin' SilCS to challenge the aurhorities' de-
nial of their personal and political identity and rights. Among dissidel1[ explorations.
perhaps the most noted, Jacobo Timerman's l'rjjOIlO' u,jfhOltt a Nlllllt', Cell f(·jt/!out
a Numba (1981) details the horrors of psychological and physical torture dt the hands
of Argentinean army offIcers whose own idenrities seem perversel:; tied ro tlit' an-
guish that they can impose on their political captives,
Sennett's Flt'~'h {Illd ,)/OIU' especially illuminates the deep incongruity between the
body's private sufflcien(,'Y .lnd public insufficiency, Historically, he .lI"gues, the in-
congruity between personallC.":.~()ns of self-sufficiency and public ones of insufttciency
has been transferred to the tension between domination and civili7arion in urban
spaces. This tension is manifested in public 1IpilCeS, principally citie~, wh()~I.' struc-
tures mirror a cultural/historical understanding of bodily experience. Urban design
reflects Western civilization's attempt to shape a civic rt',llm that can protect us from
our own weaknesses and t1H):\C' of odll:rs but abo (;\11 a~:(olllmodate our desire to
turn coward those others and be open to expcriencing dH.:m as the Other. St'nnerr's
account of urban experience prest'nts :1 (wd7it'll'd pub/h-lIeH residing in commllnal
encounters of a discourse about privacy: the experierKc of the body, including the
most intimate aspects of its private contact with other bodies,
The urban di:-'I..ollrse Sennett examines is, itself, part of a Lugcr hisrorical and
cultural dialogue on the body. The vuiu:'s engaged in thi.., conversation speak in many
arenas: the pulpit and confessional, medical practice, p\y~:horherapy, legislatllres ;lI)(j
courts, urban and architectural design, bshioll design, the arts, and. of course, the
sneets. The:st' discursive ,tren~l.s Irallsfi.mll lhe: P(·r.~ol1al and privatc experiences of the
body into an ()bje~[ of public t'Xpr~'.l\..,i()n. Our pain or ecstasy may be our own and
kno\vn only secundhand to those with whom we share its secrets, ,IS An.'l1ll! Mgucs,
but our bodies also are in the world, Beyond [he gates of our priv<ll':', we bl'I.:0l11C
aware of our Haws, our weaknl.."ss('s .m: t'xposcd and even exploited, .IIH.I Wt.' l'xpcri-
ence rebuke tor Ollr personal insufftciency. As thI..'M~- discoursl":S acquire o~l;ci,d sta-
tus, whether by virtue of trust (as in the dllClCY of medicine), faith (as in thc re-
demptive power of religion), or ballot, they speak ;1 discourse of power in which the
individual's self-sufficiency is made the object of protection and regulation. Our
bodit's are made subject to a larger authority that tries to discipline them.
On the other hand, as dlL'..:riH· ;lS rcgilllt'1:> of discipline may hc. the body, espe-
cially the body in pain, also is capable 01' resisting discipline, A number of [he wurb
noted previously offer compelling testimony to the body'~ capacity 10 t'\'okc respOIl::.t'.,
to their peril and cause from a witnessing public, to bring pressure to bear on a dis-
ciplining authority. and sometimes evcn ro o\'C:rturn [he plans of their oppressors.
This is to say that the body is a ~olln.:I;- .1S well as ,l site of signification and. there-
fore, of rhetoric.
To maintain thar the body is <1 rlll:wrical site rel\uirL':-' qualification. Ccn.linly [h"
body may amact attcntion by its ~orm and treatn1ellt .. tnd we may impose an inter-
pretation on it, as when, \vitlH:.'s':Iing ,\ h()Jy ill cxrrel11L' pain, we search for a C<luse

and respond empathetically to it~ anguish. However, the body itself is an ambigu-
ous form of si~nification, and the meaning that we arrribute to one in pain is not
nect~"'Jrily the assertion being advanced. This ambiguity is evident in the seeming
disparities in public responses ro public controversies in which bodies are used as a
form of r2\'idence to advance larger political claims.
InsohH as a body may make a public statement, it requires a context and words
ro explain its anion ..... Absent context and words, the body's declarations remain
largely inchoate. Moreover, we seldom directly encounter the anguished body ad-
vancing a public appeal to redr('.,~ a public problem. The web of discourse that forms
around its suffering mediates its claim. Claim making, in shorr, requires framing for
a body to appeal to the conscience of its public and move it to exerr pressure on
official bodies aurhorized ro act.
Framing is a funerion of publicity that hails and focuses our arrention. The press
is an imponant voice in this publicizing process. Press coverage int1uence.~ how read-
ers perceive ownership of public problems, the nature of issues, and how ro inter-
pret public words and deeds. The body's statu.~ as a public statement is tied ro this
framing process of publicity, to whether and how it is reponed.
In this chapter, I wish ro interrogate an aspect of the way in which puhlicity al-
ters the bod/s rhetorical functions. My concern is with why certain modes of body
rhetoric succeed at capturing attention and moving an attending public to compas-
sion and even acrion while others seem to be largely ineffectual. Although a com-
plete answer is beyond my current purpose, attention to specitic cases may suggest
,~ome dimensions that a complete answer would include. I wish ro explore this con-
cern through twO contrasting cases of reporting bodily anguish: those of the bodies
of prisoners of conscience and those of women who have been sexually abused in
COl1Cl'xts involving pornography.
Polirical prisoners often lISl' their bodies as their rhetorical means of last resort
but often also as their most (perhaps only) effective rhetorical weapon to confront
and best the state. The empathy generated by their body rheroric contrasts with the
general difficulty women have had inserting pornography-related violence of sexual
abmc against their bodies inro a serious public dialogue aboUt their pain as a puhlic
prohlem. I will argue that one of the features separating their cases is their different
status as exemplification of the ills they purpOrt ro represent. Simply put, in the cases
of both prisoners of conscience and victims of sexual abu'i(,. the body becomes a
particular case, a source of evidt:nce and argument, an exemplification or what
Arisrorle (1991) would have called argumenT hy pamdigma, or example.! However,
their status as an exemplification is contingenr on how their pain is framed in the
public imagination, In the case of the political prisoner, rhe body seems (0 achieve
{he argumelHative status of a paradigm. whereas sexual violence gets treated as an-
ecdoral evidence. The contrasting press coverage of Bobby Sands's hunger strike and
of the Meel\e Commission report on pornography offers cases (hat can aid in elabo-
rating this difference and suggest how press coverage conrributes ro it.
Body Rhetoric 139


The political prisoner's rhetoric is inherently entwined with the dissident's body. The
political pri~oner typically chooses incan:eration over the Faustian bargain of his name
for his freedom. Dissidents in former communist states who called for a velvet revo-
lution in the form of a viable civil society were acutely aware of this bodily tension
between self-sufficiency and regulation. Many of them, such as Kuron (1968) and
Michnik (1985) in Poland, Havel (1989) in Czechoslo\'akia, and Bonner (1986).
Shcharansky (1988), and Ratushinskaya (1989) in the Soviet Union spoke as po-
litical prisoners whose bodies were regulated, sometimes extremely so. in order to
protter the larger body politic.
Although removal and control of the dissident's physical body is administered as
a form of therapy for the body politic. it underscores the body's rhetorical potency.
Rebuking the dissident's self-sufficiency in this extrasymbolic fashion creates a ten-
sion with the state's own self-sufficiency. Removing the opposition by forcibly con-
trolling its body serves as an admission that dissident ideas cannot be refuted, thereby
bes[()wing a hyperrhetorical presence on the political prisoner's body. This is another
W;l}' ()f s~t~ling rlut the prisoner of conscience, having lost control of her body and

its attembnt fn.:edoms of movement, assembly, and expression. has her body trans-
formed into her last but most potent resource for subverting her oppressors. The
most graphic form of this bodily argumentation is the hunger strike.
Self-starvation is inexplicable without words. The anorexic body can capture our
attention by the sheer spectacle of its wasting away. but we require words to tell us
whether we are watching a religious fast, an involuntary famine, a manifestation of
cultural psychosis, or a hunger strike. The hunger strike particularly is tied to words.
The hunger strike is an attempt at subverting a superior power by becoming help-
le,,') bdore it. Without words. the point of the protest remains mysterious.
The authorities, mindful or how fundamental words are to the protest's mean-
mg, attempt to control the hunger striker's voice by banning his words from the light
of publicity (Ell mann 1993). Even if muted, however, the hunger striker's body
manages to speak. By appealing to the state's power to act, the hunger striker offers
a perverse form of legitimation. He recognizes the authority's power by placing his
lite in its hands. The death fast opposes within the hierarchy and, by not denying
it. unmasks it. Ir seeks to overpower the oppressor through a display of powerless-
ness. Insofar as this act of helplessness succeeds in eliciting pressure from external
groups, it actually subverts the superior power.
The spectacle of the striker's starvation poses a moral dilemma to the authorities:
",cher yield to save my life or, by refusing to fold, stand publicly condemned for
\'our moral intransigence. The moral economy of wordless starvation before a seem-
in~I~' unbending authority calls its wimcs<;es to an exercise of conscience in hopes
()f saving another human's life. It calls [hcm into a public sphere where preddined
premises frame a discourse on the society\' civility. In itself, wordles~ 3nd wasting,
140 Cmml A. HClltSa

rhe fasting body onnot force thl? ;lmhority to cave in. bur its public display of
,1I1or~'xic helples~nes~ before a superior power pr('senrs itself as pilradigllliltir the
,ncicr::~ moral ('CO[1(,m.". Through 3 pageanr that plainly indicares the authority might
end the death marl. h should it choose. the strike focuses arrention on seemingly
misguided \'alues th d t, abst'nt ph/,olJf'.ii.i. would allow a person to perish rather than
negotiate the complainl. The ~peCl,lLle of the strik~r's disintegrating body thus be-
comes a form of rhetoric b;.' indirection (Natanson 19:8).
The striker's bud:.' hecomcs ;l corporeal manirestation of her grievance. It drives a
wedge (Johnstone 19<)0) between our idenritlcarion of the state's actions as an ex-
prt'ssioll of national' alues and the srate's exercise of its aurhority. Thi~ wedge tunc-
tions rhetorically as an opening that invites critical reflecrion on the taken-for-granted
tu~i()n of power vvith the persona of the~tate\ leader. WiH1l'~sing the body's self-
consumption simulran(,ollsl~' fixes our gaze on the authoriry's display of inrransigence
in the face of appeals (or ci\'il ,lccommodation. As the physk:11 body diminishes, its
rhetorical incarnati()l1 grows, touching the conscience of ever enlarging circles of
society. Sometimes. as ill the cases of Gandhi in India. Sakharov and Shcharansky
in the f()l'fl1t'r So"il.:'t Union. :llld Bohhy Sands in Norrhern Ireland. its rherorical pres-
ence (n,..;ses l1d.tional borders and even spans ocedns to elicit a cOll1mon urging that
the duthority be re<;ponsive to the IJrger demands of ci\'iliry. The bod~.'s rhetorical
identity becomes (1 Iiter;]1 mdnifestation of the rhetorical topOS of magnification:
\vords magnify the wasting bod.\'\ moral weight. enlarge irs mass through publicity,
and transform irs powerless ph~'sical torm into a powerrul moral invocation that
advdnces the .~triker\ demands \vhile questioning the legitimacy of rulers unwilling
to compromise. Through the pressure that its helplessness elicits from external groups.
it becomes a suhver..,ive threat to its oppressor's superior power. Finally. as the body
vanishe\ into death. it5> corpor(:J.1 frailty (.()nquers its physical master by acquiring
traJl~(l'lldt'1ll rhetorical life as a marryr. In death. it robustly survives. drawing life
from words that memorialize past gril'vances and give meaning and force ro a cause
of opposition.
The ~L1th.'ring body's nurch from r(T~()nal pain to public ."ymhol requires voices
to spread neW5> of it~ anguish. They must publicize its gradual demise by linking the
body's ordeal to cl cause dnd its opp()~i (ioll. The inevitable selectivity of the press in
reporting tht' srrikt.·r's decline and how the custodians of its fate responded encour-
ages redders to pen.:e:ive self-inHicred "titTering either as emblematic of a decayed body
politic 0r of political blackmail. In~oLu as perception functions as reality, framing
count~ 1ll,1ssivdy, reinforcing existing prejudices and swaying the uncommitted.
The~l' claims are illustrated in the rhetorical power exerted by Irish Republican
Arll1~' (IRA) inmatc<; in Northern Ireland's ;V1aze Prison at Long Kesh during the
lat\.' 1t)-os and earl:' Il)8()s. Then. the more than 400 IRA prisoners in H-Block
t' 1:'
in contin uous prorest through rhetorical displavs of their bodil'~ for over
, - .
four \'ears to haH' their ·\p~·ciJ.l status" as de facto political prisoners restored. Their
grie\'~nct culminating in tht 1981 Elst-ro-death hy Bobby Sands and nine other IRA
inmates before rllt' .,trike was terminared.
Body Rhetoric 141

Following the surge of guerrilla activity that accompanied the insurgence in Belfast
I'" 1969, the British had established a policy of detention without trial for those
.lII"6(ed for terrorist acts. Prisoners who were members of the Provisional IRA and
('(her groups with Irish Republican sentiments were awarded "special status," which
Jllo\\L'd them to be treated as political prisoners. They were segregated from the crimi-
11.11 population, allowed to wear their own clothes. not required to engage in the
lnJusrrial work of the' prison. allowed to congregate among themselves, and permit-
(~d to conduct their own educational programs. England reversed its policy of de-
ll"!1(ion without trial in 197G, when it criminalized terrorist acts and established a
p('lic~' of treating those convicted of such acts as ordinary criminals.
The Criminalization Act provided individuals arrested for terrorist activities with
'illnlmary trials in which the accused was tried by a judge without benetlt of a jury
[)i peers. [t further abolished the currency of political motivation from the moral

t:~ onomy of its penal system. These convicts no longer were to he segregated from
(h~ criminal population. would he required to wear prison attire, would be assigned
!'J the normal work details with the other prisoners, and would be' denied freedom

lit ,,:ongregation and freedom to conduct their own educational programs. Men con-
\'il.'red of Republican terrorist acts after March I, 1976, were to be incarcerated in
,ht, n'(ently consrructed addition to Maze Prison at Long Kesh, called H-Block,
r,uher than in the older parr of the prison, whose configuration permitted greater
freedom of movement.
In retaliation against being treated as convicted felons, the prisoners used their
beJdits for a ~llstained solidarity strike. First. they engaged in the "blanket" protest,
wh~rein they went naked except for their prison blankets rather than wear standard
pri\nn garb. In March 1978, the "blanker" protest escalated to the "no-wash" pro-
le't when the authorities refused the Republican prisoners' request for a second towel
to conceal their nakedness from their guards while in the washroom. Refusal to visit
(hc' \',;ashrooms meant that the prisoners had no way to empty their own chamber
pots. Their warders refused to empty them and administered beatings instead. The
pri'ioners retaliated by emptying their contents through the spy holes and out the
windows of their cells. The officials responded by sealing the spy holes and windows.
The prisoners refused to call otT rheir defiance of rhe authoriries and instead esca-
la:-:d the confrontation to a "din)'" protest, in which they disposed of excreta by
smearing it on the walls and ceilings of rheir cells.
The debasement of their bodies became the text for the important voice of Tomas
Cardinal () Fiaich, who, after visiring the squalor of Long Kesh. wrote a public ler-
rer In which he issued a stinging indictment of British policie,~ thar had led to these
yile internment conditions. He asserred that the men's refusal to wear a prison uni-
t~lrm did not entitle the prison administration to den~' them rights to physical exer-
ci~e. freedom of association, and outside contact. In his view, [ were "ba~ic hu-
man needs for physical and mental healrh, not privileges to be granted or withheld
d'i iewards or punishments." He concluded with passionate insisrence on a political

identity that framed their imprisonment and their voluntary acts of debasement as
meaningful claims against the legitimacy of the stare:

The altthorities refuse tl' ,ldrnit that rhese prisoners are in J ditT~rent category from
lhe ordinary, yet everything .lbllut their tridl~ and ramily back~ruund indicates thaI they
.m: different. Specidl coum \\'irhuu( jurie.; \L'rHenced them. fhe \'.l~( majorit;: was con-
\'icreo on allegedly \',\' ,-oJlfl:~,iol1~ which are now placed under gran' suspicion
by the rCCen! repon ()t'.-\nlllt·sr~· Internatil)nal. tvhny are \'efY youthful and come from
familie~ which had Ilt..'wr h<:(~11 in [rouble wilh the Id\l\' , though they lived in area~ which
suffered discriminarion in housing and jobs. How can one explain the jump in the
pri~on population uf N(lrrhern Ireland from ~OO ro .3,000 unk!i~ a Ill'\\' type of pris-
oner has emerged? (cited in Reresfurd 19iP. I j')-140)

In the late fall of 1980, Republican prisoners wenr on a hunger strike to force
concessions on issues such as rheir righr to wear rheir own clothing, not perform
standard prison work, parricipate in programs of self-education, and communicate
regularly with rheir relatives. in effect. they were striking for de facto reinstatement
of their polirical status. JUSt before Christmas, as its leader neared death, the strike
was aborted in belief that an agreement had beL'n reached. However, the British
government claimed thar it had not offered to meer the prisoners' demands, and the
prisoners, after a month of furile attemprs to c1arif)' the confusion, concluded that
rhe governmenr was nor going to makt: the concessions rhat they rhought had been
agreed on. Bobby Sands, the Provo prisoners' leader, announced that he would com-
mence a hunger strike to death on March I, to be followed two weeks later by Frank
Hughes and then a few wceks later by m()re inmates and so on with new inmates
raking the place of those who died until their demands were mer. ~
Sands died sixty-six days later on May 'i, 1981, having just turned twenty-seven
and been elected <l memher of Parliamenr. His hunger strike received international
press coverage and focused world opinion and anger on Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher and the Brirish governmenr. His death was n:ported on the front page of
newspapers in every major American city and most cicit'S around rhe world. The
newspapers condemning Tharcher included l.e Monde, lzziestia, Hindustan Times,
Hong Kong ,)'ttlndard, Noti(ia~- (the semiofficial newspaper of Mozambique), and
SOWt![I/n (South Africa's mainly black newspaper). Anti-British demonstrations oc-

curred in Antwerp, Athens, Brisbane, Chicago, Ghent, Milan, Oslo. and Paris, among
others. The New Jersey State Legislature pas~t'd a resolution honoring Sands's "cour-
age and commitment." Teheran announced that the Iranian government would send
a representative to [he funeral. The Indian parliament split as the opposition stood
for a minute of silence in Sands's memory while members of indira Ghandi's ruling
party refmed to join in. World leaders, such as Lech W3lesa, paid Sands tribute as a
"great man who sacrifIced his life for his struggle." Brirish targets were bombed in
Lisbon, MiLln, and Toulouse (Beresford 1987. 08-99: O'Malley 1990.4).
\,Xi'hilt' governmental bodies elsewhere were questioning the wisdom of Britain's
refusal to negotiate an (·nd to Sands's hunger strike. the House of Commons assigned
Bod)' Rhetori( 143

blame for the international furor more to news coverage than misbegotten policy.
During the Commons' questions to the prime minister on May), 1981 (reported
in "Political Status a Licence to Kill," Times [London], l\'lay 6,1981, p. 6), a Unionist
member of Parliament (MP) from North Do\\"n, James Kilfedder, asked Mrs.
Thatcher. "Will she do something to win the propaganda battle because foreign tele-
vision crews are putti ng out a wrong version of \\·hat is happening." In the same
article, the "wrong account" was expressed emphatically by ,'vir. Patrick DuffY, Labour
MP hom Sheffield, who broke ranks to ask the prime minister, "Is she aware of the
widespread impression overseas notably on the part of the New york Time.i • until
n:cend~' a staunch ally, that the death of Mr. Sands-who the Speaker has already
dl'::.uibl'J as a fellow MP-will be due to the Prime Minister's intransigencl'~" One
did not have to travel beyond England and Ireland, however, to capture a ~l'nse of
the rhetorical power on press coverage wielded by Sands'-- wasti ng body. There is good
evidence that the framing of Sands's strike in the Irish Times provided a basis for its
readers to interpret Sands's dying body in ways that supported the prisoners' demands
~lnd, incidentally. their interpretation of Anglo-Irish politics. Even the contrasting
point of view represented by the Times (London) could not muffle the political poinr
that Sands's strike was making.
The initial stages of the strike received relatively light coverage from both the Irish
li"lJ/c)S .1Ild rhl' Time,i (London). Still. from its inception, both reponed starkly con-
trasting versions of events that were predictably Republican or Unionist in their
cmpfusis. The Irish Times marked the onset of the strike with anicles on the activi-
ties of supporters and the response by the British government. It reponed the com-
paratively small number of supporters mustered by an IRA rally in Belfast-4,000
\TrSUS 10,000 in the fall-to mark the srrike's beginning. It speculated that the sus-

pension of the 1980 strike had dampened public enrhusiasm for supporting a tactic
that was unlikely to succeed. The British government was purtrayed as steadfast in
ignoring the strike. \Vhen Humphrey Atkins, secretary of state for Northern Ireland,
repeated to Commons the government's determination never to concede special sta-
[liS, the Irish Thm'/s \I1anin Cowley reponed that he was greeted wirh applause. No

menrion was made of the hue and cry that his account raised in Parliament, which
was the focus of the reporting by the Times (London). Instead, Cowley noted in the
In~ih Thl1N (March .4" 1981, p. I) thar several MPs "mJde it clear that they did not
\Vall( frequent statemenrs" and rhat Arkins "reciprocated with the strong hinr" that
ht' had no inrention of making them. This Republican perspective framed Sands's
body as in calloush- inditTerem hands.
I •

Bv contrast, on March
. ' 4. 1981, an article tirled "Government Unmoved by. IRA
Prisoners" ( Times [L0ndon], p. 8) reported the actual exchanges in Parliament, during
which Mrs on both sides upbraided Atkins to srop making such statements as "we
,hall not give way 0:1 the issue of political status" and "the MJZC prison is one of
[lit" rl)()St modern ill the United Kingdom and ... compares favorably with any

prj ..on anywhere in ,he world" since they publicized only the IRA's cause. Arkins's
reproachment for talking about these maner:, is indicative of Briti.~h .1\\·Jreness that

Sands':> body was rhcwricall:' potem. rrom a loyalist per~pL'ni\'L'. in which Sands's
bod:' personifIed criminal terrorism and was unde~en'ing of public di:;cllssion, the
policy of not emph.lsiljng rhe strike itself could bt susrained oilly h:' ignoring Sands.
To talk about him Wl'nt bt'\'onJ enumerating the gO\'c'rnmcnt's reasons for rejecting
his claims to political status or reiterating that he wa'> d con\'iued ~el()n. It meant
that one also had ro addre~s (he ~a(( that the government had his body on its hands,
with rhe insurmountablc pathos that his dving frame would soon evoke for some
form of accommodation.
The dynamic for pr-:'s~ coverage changed dramaricall:' \'v'hen the sudden death on
i\'hrch ') of Frank Maguire, MP from FermJ.nau~h/South l~'rol1e, required a spe-
cial election. Two weeks later, with the press still ignoring his strike, the IRA's Ex-
ecutive Committee declared that Sands would stand for the vacant sear. The other
Republican \.andidates withdrew, anJ the Reverend Ian Paisle:.'s Democratic Unionist
Parry elecred not to field a candidate rather than face embarra~sing defeat in a Re-
publican stronghold. The elenion came down to a two-man contest between Sands
and Harry West. oHlcial Unionist candidate. When Sands won on April 9, his strike
assumed international dimensions. The election effectively fused Sands's dying body
with a Republican construction of Norrhern Ireland's body politic Coverage hy the
Irish TilJlcslent credence to thi~ illtnpretation.
Two days after the election. an iri.,/J Time; article by Thoma!oo () Cathoar (April
11, p. 5) normalized the election results by recounting past instan . . e~ in which a jailed
political dissident had been elected to Parliament, both from Fermanaugh/South
Tyrone and from other counties in Ireland. Five day" later. on April 16. another ar-
ticle analyzing the election. titled "Sands" (p. S), made the ,~ame point and further
argued lh;ll close scrutiny of election results in the counties where jailed Republi-
Cdns had been elected in the past showed that voters also had a re . . ord of defeating

Republicans. According to the article, this indicated that the Sands vote did not
rdlt'C[ a blind Catholic-Nationalist sentiment. Instead, it was '\1 vorl' for (he spe-
(itic policy Sands put forward, political status for the prisoners in the H Blocks and
Armaugh." The article concluded with a note indicating thar much of its material
came from a file in the Northern Ireland Public Record Office that had been closed
to the public and asked, "Is this because of the rather embarrassing story it reveals?"
The frame of prison reform. nor suprort of terrorism, was buttressed in news
reporting of related incidents in which Sands's supporters were confronted by rhe
Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). For ex.1Il1ple. a 3,OOO-pr..'fS('11 demonstration by
the Trade Union Sub-Committee of the Anti-H-Block Campaign found its April
15 march to the center of Belfast blocked by a large contingent of the RUe and
British soldiers:

\'V'he'n thl.:\" Wert storp~d in College Squ.ue North, on the' edge of (he city centre. (he)'
~at down in [he streer for half an hour in [he bright sunshine to listen to a numher of
'r('akC'r~ ..tli of whom CmpI1<l)i~t:d ch,lt there should he' no confromJ[iun "virh rh~ Se-
cLlri[r force~.
Body Rht'tlJrit 14'5

Scewards chen made sure (he nlarcher~ disper~t'd pCl('dlllly back along Falls Road,
(he oniv rouce leFc open co chern after rows of Rl!C L:1I1d R(l\'er~ and dllllollred cars
had scaled off all ocher routes [0 rhe cicy cemre. The onl.\· crouble \Va~ ,1 licdt: desul-
(Or:' stoning ,lI1d che burning of a van by a group of vouch, oucside Di\is Flacs. ("3,000
Sropped." hi.ih TiI17('>', April j(), J 98 L p. R)

The depiction of peaceful marchers with responsible leader~ sining in the sun while
surrounded by rhe menacing force of the RUe and Brirish army whose Land Rov-
er~ and armored cars sealed off their access (0 rhe ciry center offered a meronomic
representation of the Republican version of Sands's Strike and the relationship of hi . .
frail body, ro the Brirish aurhoriries wirh whom they: claimed his fate rested, Wirh-
out compromise by the British, the spectacle of Sands's selfconsumprion be'came a
corporeal man ifesrarion of his grievance.
Coverage in the TimCJ' (London) laid its ~mphasis more on the forgone conclu-
"ion rhat Sands would be elected, given the Carholit' majority of Fermanaugh/South
Tyrone, and that this would be a propaganda victOry for th<.: I RA. After the e1ec-
lion, it focused on deliberations within the government and among MPs over
whether to unseat Sands and how to interpret the election. Following Sands's vic-
[or)" rhe Timn (London) anicles commonly began with "Mr. Robert Sands, Provi-
~i()nal I RA gunman." Having inscribed him as a felon and terrorist and theref(.>re
ulltlr ro serve, the implications of Sands's body seated in the House' of Commons
\\\.'re seen as grave. The vote for him was depicted both as a blow ro moderate Ro-
IllJn Catholic opinion in the Social Democrat and Labour Party (SDLP) and dS
Cltholics laughing at the gravesite ofa slain loyalisL \'(I;lS ir a vote for the IRA? against
IInion? for a gunman? for the H-Block issue? Although tht" focus of the' TirneJ' (Lon-
,Ion) wa:. tkcidedly on dampening the propagand<l value of his e1c:crion, these ac-
"OUlHS were confronted with the indisput;lhle facr that the voters in fcrmanaughl
';;outh Tvrone. who had been reponed as going to rheir polling placl' om of f(ar and
illcirnid3cion, could have spoiled their bailors but chose not to. The \'O[crs had made
'i,mds rl:presentative of lheir political aspirarion in a way rhat gave it and him offl-
li,ll stallls. The British government might construe his election in ways that dimin-
i~hed its IRA mandate, but Westminster could no longer ignore him. It had ro dis-
(ms Sands and the claims for which he stood.
The credibiliry of Sands's insistence on rhe need for reform in rhe H-Block was
::'UPPOfll'd a~ posrelection press coverage steadily became a deathwarch. His deterio-
rating body increasingly appeared paradigmaric of Anglo-Irish relations in the North.
Following rhe election, the inrernational press carried the continuing story of his
'>ready physical decline, including appeals by' his supporrers who spoke' of Long Kesh
,b J "concentration camp" and excoriated the colonial practices of England as at the
rl)nt of Sands's protest and "the troubles" of rhe North (W't1S6ingtol/ Pml. April 21.
\ ~)81, C3).
On April 21. the IUJh Times IKgan cOllnting rhe number of da~'s rh,.l[ Sands had
been fasting and reponing medical accounr~ of his deterioraring condition. Although
Gerard A. HauslT

i[ quoted somt' local voices disst'nring from the publicity bt'ing given to Sands's
hunger strike in comparison ro that accorded vinims of IRA terrorism, the report-
ing b~' the fri.;h Tinw more typically fused his dying bod~' with the is~ue of political
status. Irs C(lVl'ragl' fralllcd Sands's strike in term~ of the prison rdorm issue. In (hat
context. British refusal to accommodate Sands appeared ht'artlessly srubborn, Over
rhe following tWO weeks, it also reportt'd a stead:' stream ()f visits by world leaders,
repn.:sC'm.Hivl'!> of the Inrernational Commission for Human Rights, a papal nun-
cio, local clergy, and public figures such as Ramse;' Clark and Father Joseph Barrigan,
who issut'd Statement~ denouncing terrorism \vhile urging Creat Britain to find a
reasonable accommodation to the long-standing dispute in the H-Block. Despite
Thdtcht'r's point that Sands could save his own life by calling off the strike, the frames
of [he election as a mandate for prison reform and international concern directed
to tht' Norrhern Ireland Office (NIO) and Tharcher for humanitarian response le-
gitimated Sands's daim rhat his cau~l' was JUSt and rC3.sonable, as England's was nor.
As death neared, Sands's body, frail and wasted, grew in irs capacity to provoke
heated exchange as a sourCe of competing political interpretation between the Brit-
ish and Republican Irish moral economies. Starring on April 1(), one week after he
was elected and immediately after Westminster determined not to un:;c,u him
through May H, when Sands was buried, the Tilll(,f ([ .ondon) ran fIfteen articles re-
poning violence or ft'ar of \'iol~J1(l' preLipil<{red by Sallds\ Em to death. For the Times
(London) reader, Sands's dying hody was not framed as the exemplar of an Irish body
politic bllt of a terrorist group that hrnught only stri~e, bloodshed, and grief to Ul-
ster. For example, the Time.i (London) of May 2 reported that Secretary of State
Atkins accused the I RA of planning to provoke sectarian warfare in the t'vent of
Sands's death, including evacuation of a section of Belfast so that tht':, could burn
[he houses dnd then blamt' it on Protestant pari i.lmenrarians. This was m~r with ridi-
cule by tllosl' in the neighhorhood in qUl·\tion, who, Catholics all and involved with
rht· IRA. rn.trveled at being sllspected of plot!ing to burn their own houses. As a
further l'x,llllple, in a Times (London) letter to the editor (May 20, p. 15), General
Sir ./()hn Hackett rherorically obliterated the geopolitical identity of Ireland as he
wondered, "\X/hen was [reland in any rt'al sense ever united, even hefore the cruel
liquidation of native Catholic Irish in Ulster, its most recalcitranr kingdom, and their
replacement by Protestant lowland Scots? ... 'Ireland' has long been lirrle more than
a geographical expression, a name on what happens to be an island."
For his Suppo[[('rs, the symhiosis of Bobby Sands's bod~' \. . ith the body politic
expre.'>'it't! their struggle for Irish self-determination. For the British, Robert Sands
was a convicted K'ion who~e houy had no meaning beyond his individual person.
For Repuhlicans, Bobby Sands was struggling for the Iri ..;h right to sdf-organization.
For the Rritish, he relinquished that right when he engag,eJ in criminal acts. To spare
him amounted to legitimizing this claim and relinquishing the state's authority over
his bou~' as a convicted criminal. The rhetoric of Sand<~ hunger strike advanced a
politics of absolutes: absolute hdplessnL's~, absolute power to spare another's life,
ab~;oIute adht'rence ro [he law, nonnegotiable principles of political right, non-
Bod)' Rh('{{)ric 147

negotiahle principles of human rights, and nonnegoti,lble principles of control. lr

left no middle ground for compromise positions.
\X'ithout compromise, the spectacle of Sands's self-consumption hecame a corpo-
real manifestation of hi~ gric\'ance. Regardless of what the British might say in re-
sponse, Sand.s's hody fixed the world's gaze on Britain's unyielding stance in (he face
of a clamor tor civil accommodations. The swell of sentiment for the government
to end the crisis reflected Britain's inability to silence Sands's emaciated and dying
body or to deflect its claim that its fate lay in British hands. Thus, as his body di-
minished, its rhetorical incarnation grew, touching the conscience of ever enlarging
circles of society and crossing national boundaries until its plea for civility became
colossal. Sands's body had become a literal manifestation of the rhetorical topoS of
magnification; a.~ words increased his wasting body's moral weight and enlarged its
mass to span conrinents, its frail physical form metamorphosed into a mighty moral
invocation (hat advanced his demands while questioning the legitimacy of masters
unwilling to compromise.
Finally, as Sands's body sank into death, Irish Ilm~f coverage (M,lY 8, pp. I, 8)
.:<.mstructed a narrative of his corporeal frailty conquering his physical master's domi-
nation hy acquiring transcendent rhetorical life. In death, his body was claimed hy
[he IRA and given a military funeral. Thousands of mourners were reponed to line
(he three-mile rou te from the church to the graveyard while thousands more paraded
hehind the cortege. His coffin was draped with the tricolors and a barrette and glove
\ymbolic of a slaj n soldier. A lone piper playing a dirge led the funeral procession.
At one point, the procession stopped while IRA soldiers, dressed in military garb,
tired three rifle volleys in salute. At the graveside, Owen Curron, Sands's election
.1gCnt. eulogized him as "a hero in the struggle that will drive the British oue of our
. ()untry for once <lnd for all" (Irish Time's, May 8, pp. 1,8). He quoted Sands's words
from rhe Republi('dlJ NI'IlIJ: "They may hold our bodies bur while our minds are free,
,jcwry is assured .. , Sands's death was "a cruel murder" that marked "a watershed in
I rish history." Hi~ hunger fast was eulogized f()r having achieved lasting meaning
I;,r all Ireland. Curron prai:-.ed Sands as "a symbol of Irish resistance ... a symbol
Ill' hope for the poor. the oppressed and homeless and for those divided by pan i-
I ion .... We have never surrendered and we never shall. ... We haven't gor tanks

dnd guns, bur, please God, it won't ahvays be so. '\f./c must take what they will nor
give" (Irish Times. May 8, pp. 1, 8). In dearh, Sands's body survived with rhererical
robusrness that drew life from words thar memorialized past grievances and that gave
n1t:aning and forct: to a cause of opposition. He was now the paradigm for the Re-
puhlican cause. He had become a martyr: he had become immortal.


)n LOntrast with th -: rhetorical potency of the hunger striker's body, women's appeals
~'on(erning episode s of sexual violence provoked by their anacker's consumption of
purnograph:' have iifflculty escaping their loca\, even persona) context. One source
of L"\ iJencc for this claim is the disparity in the press discussion dccorded tlcrive works
dcaling with this issue. For eX<Hnpk. Ro~a Eberly (ll)l)3) 11.l~ ((Imp.ued pres~ dis-
(ussion of Andrea Oworkin'~ ,'vIti'()' . and Bret Easron ElIi~'~ "~lnl'/"it'tlrz PJVr"iIO.
detdiled examination of Lhe Jrgunlt.:'mati\"(~ srrategies of Oworklll dnd her uitics in
rhe literary public sphere Llnderscores the disparity in trcatment of voice on sexual
abuse of women. Ellis's protd~\)lli)t t:llga~e~ in serial aC(.~ ufyiolenct' '0 extreme that
Simon & Schuster reneged nn irs comract at the last minure, forkitillg its advance
of ,nt.'I"al hundred thousand dollars rarher than bring it [() print, only to ha\'e Vin-
tage dcquire the book rwo dd~'S later. :'\lor did Ellis's cooreor, "inrerpreted as an im-
plicit argumem for men ro rape. kill and dismember women" (Eberly 1993, 2 7 6),
deter the arbirers of literar~' merit from engaging in serioLls deoate in the lirerary
public sphere, with more rhan ~\.·\·enry reviews dnd feature srories. including no less
d Brahman than Norman Maikr. who Jeclared that it indeed was \"orthy of serious

literary consideration (Eberly 20UO)' D\\,(lrkil1'~ A/(Tl)1 is no less consumed by graphic

details of sexual violence. Howc\'cr, her poinr of vie'v\'. militantly feminist, which by
novel's end has its proragonist, Andrca, calling for random killing of men and em-
barking on a life of guerrilla warfare, had difficult;, gaining the attention of the lit-
erary public sphere, with a scant eleven re\it'ws.
Dworkin's dift-lcult;: in getting her voice heard is of <1 piece: with rhe striking dif-
rlcult), of the women's voicn t1ut had appeared before rhe j\1ee:,c Commission. The
C:ommissiol1'~ hJltzl Repurt. published in 1986, is in two volumes of rlt\lfl~' 2,000
p;lgc~ (United Stares Attorney Ceneral's Commission, Pornography 19H())' Individual
sr.\[cmenrs by the commissioner. . , occupying nearly 200 pages, are followed by a 218-
p.I!;\.' srJtemelH written hy Frederick Schauer. a commission member and professor
of law at the Univt'r~itv . of .\lichigall.
, and endorsed bv, rhe.- other members. The
Schauer s[,llement offer.) the commission's analysis and argumenr. A section thar
spel.:irlcs ninny-two recommendations ro curb rhe spread of pornography follows
this. The remaining 1, ')00 pdges consist of seie(Tcd [estimony and evidence.', excerpts
from pornography. summarie . . of pornographil boob and m()vic~, a rather exten-
sive biblio~raph)' of pornographic litCfClture dIld \'ideos, dnd phoros of the commis-
sion in <lct iun. These mareriaL", composed by rhe commission sratl and more stri-
denr in tone and less thoughtful in analysis. led commission member Judirh Becker
to ad"ise rClders to Stop on completing Schauer's report. Were readers to focus on
the tJrst quarrer of the two-volume document, or its initial ,4'58 pages, rhey might
conclude that it was arrempring ro present balanced and responsible analysis and
recommendations (Vance 1986, 78).
The version of the report portrayed in the American pr('~!-, however. was anything
our baiJnced and responsible. Although sparsel:' covered by rele\'ision, the report
bccan1l' ,1 source of national debate at the new:)stand. Irs notoriety was attributable
princip.llly to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Barry Lynn. who, as a self-
appointed commission watchdog, followed rhe panel to each locarion, stCllring court
order~ for the release of information dnd providing the w(lrki ng press with a steady
Body RI'I,toric 149

stream of information and quotable interviews. From its inception through the Fi-
IW! Reporis rec~p[ion ;md debate in the press, Lynn sut.:t.:tssfully galvanized a por-

[ra~·.ll of the Anorney General's Commission as an objen of suspicion to the liberal

community dS anathema to the publishing industn,. dnd as a palpable threat to the
ci\'illibertie~ of the average American.
The press version of the report transformed ir from d framing statement for por-
nography as a public problem that required local dialogue, community attention,
.1I1d citizen action into an attack on the First Amendmenr. EI~ewhere, I have de-
tailed the way in which press accounts reframed the discussion from harms to women
dnd children into thl: scientitlc validity of the commi~sion's findings (Hauser 19(9).
In summary, mitigari Ill; factors of commissioner bias. ,1 ~kewed l:\'identiary base, and
a lack of demonstrated causality between consumption of pornography and subse-
quent behavior were summoned to suppOrt the press claim that the report was an
Lmempt to legitimate censorship. Significantly absent in this account were the ac-
rllal voices of women whu claimed to be victims of physical abuse in a context where
(heir attacker was enacting a sexual fantasy found in a pornographic portrayal.
For adherents to the scientized epistemology of modernism, the objectivist/rela-
rivist binary dictated that the evidence of women who had been scxu,llly assaulted
ill a conr~:\t involving consumption of pornography was deeply fL.l\wd. For t·xample.
the binar\' :-.uggested thdt the general indictment of magazines such ,1S HI!ftla as a
calise of :'.l·xual violence was an oversimplification at best. Were ir true, the several
million monthly readers of these publications would have cooscituterl a massi\'e
public menace. not to mention the corrosive effects on the commissioners who were
~teeped in far worse for a full yC~lr,
Press accounts and commclHaril':; skipped over witness testimony by abused
\\'OIl1L'n to h)(us on (he commission and its agenda. Press coverage emphasized rhe
d(tivilies of the commission itself and its recommendations. not the testimonv of
l-ommission witnt~~es. As the commission and its actions became the focal point or
the story, it framed commentaries depicting the cummission as engaged in dn ideo-
logical witch-hunl. Doubtless these opponents found little rhetorical advantage in
challt"nging victim accounts of ovt:rwhelmingly vicious attacks. However, equally,
~illce rhl' pn:ss essentially refocused the discussion from the publi( and personal harm~
impired by pornography to lhe threat po~ed by a "witch-hunting" committee, the
<lltending public had lirde chance:' tl) COIlTlect with the pathos of these accounts be-
cause the), were seldo/1l puhliciLccl.
I have consulted aCCOlllHS in the Nne 'y()I-k Times, V.;~uhiJJgt(Jt/ Post. Lo,\ AIIJ!.f.4es
TiIlW, major newsweeklies, and other magazines thar reponed and commented on
chI.:' Lllmmission's work. The more than 250 news stories .1Ild commentaries that I
l'\.llllined contained not d single verbatim report of a woman's testimony. The few
mentions of \\'irnesses that did appear charaCterized them in a way that rdlected more
on the commi"siol1 as a source ofcontroversv than on those who testitled to tell their
~tmies. For eX;JlHpk, Carole Vance a~serred. "The commission's 3()O-plus hours of

public hearings and businc:~~ meetings featured zany, if unintended, comedy: vice
cops, born again Christians and prosecuwrs thunderin~ indictments of pornogra-
phy and its progeny" (Vance 1986. 65). Te~timony thJ[ \\',l~ reponed typically was
by contrite men whose aCl('ltnl~ of sexual depravit!· irl\ohc:d admission.s of alcohol
and drug abuse at the time of their acts or stories so (:x[!"("mc in their perversity that
the reader was invited to suspecr thdt the person had a psychological disorder. In
these cases, the stories were treated as anecdotes that tailed to establish a causal rela-
tionship between the consumption of pornography and ~exual violence. Tragic as
dOy individual case may have been, it came to the reader through the tllrering pro-
cess of press and comrnentaror or special interes( \'(lice intent on debunking the
commi~~ion's \vork as inquisitional.
The women who testified lost control of their swry: readers of press accounts were
not engaged kY the plight of their bodies but by redacted versions that were about
their plight. Unlike Sands, who used his body ro make a poim [hat fused his pain
with the problem of IRA prisoner treatment in H-Block and thaI was puhliciLed as
such, these sexually abused bodies had neither elected ro be harmed nor benefited
from the principle of publicity ro present their pain directly through news accounts
and discussion. Rather than a discourse of the hody. it was i7bout the body. presented
ro readers at a distance several steps removed from their physical pain. Il was a dis-
course ahoul words and images whose conseqUt'nces were subjecr to myriad inter-
The bodies depicted in sexually explicit materials, ranging from erotica to obscene
depictions of abuse and degradation of the subjugated parmer, initiated a complex
discourse difficull to confine to any single overriding issue. Was the question of
pornography really about freedom to engage in erotic expression, abnut violence,
or about public health? These alternatives framed pornography and sexual violence
as a public problem requiring technical di~course among expert elites: la.wyers and
jurists. ethicists, psychiatrists, publishers. rcsearcher~. and official entities. These
expert and special interest groups, not lhe viCTims, were owners of the public prob-
lem. meaning they defined the cri tical issues and controlled the discussion (Gustleld
19H 1). They, not the victims themselves, C0ntrolled the victims' narrative. In turn,
the victims' inability to control their narrative or its treatmenl as merely a personal
story diminished its evidentiary status. \Vilhin the frames of the commission itself
and free speech, press accounts interpren:d their plight as a form of bodily insuffi-
ciency subordinate ro scientitlc criteria of causaJir:' for jllstif~(ing state action. Their
bodies' ~:'necdochic representation of the issue was lost .IS ochers appropriated their
stories as TlH.'rl'I;, one more datum to con.~ider. This public insufficiency prevented
their bodies' assertions of pain from becoming paradigmatic in a way lhat might
compel social anion (Hauser 1999). Quite the contrary, the issue of sexual acts in-
spired by pornography could he inserted into benign contexts. such as Sallie Ti!idale's
defense of erotica, Talk Din)' to Me: An /}I{;IIliUf' P/Ji/u.,(}P~V ({Sex (1994), which
chdllenged the negative interpretation of pornography's consequences.
BOt;(I' Rhftoric 151

Tisdale's and the commission's contrasting inrerpretarions of women's bodies in

the context of pornography reflect an instability of signiflLarion that opens accounts
of these bodies to multiple readings. Their range or meaning denies them the force
of Sands's public suffering and the press' identification of the hunger striker's body
with his polirical callSe. This difference is more than that between a body thar is
symbolic of a political cause and 3 body that is the victim of a crime. For example,
a public furor arose in 1990 and 1991 over the brUtal r3pe and assaulr of a young
Wall Street executive while she was jogging in New York's Central Park. New York-
ers identified her body with the city's prototypical SUl(eSS story. Her body spawned
a discourse of class and race that polarized the ciry along lines, as Joan Didion (1991)
argut.~. closely related to how the srory was reported by the New York press.
Equall~', the testimony of Bosnian women before Helsinki Watch to their system-
atic rape by their Serbian captors received wide publicity and endorsement as evi-
dence of war crimes that validated UN intervention (Tindemans 1996). In the case
of Bosnia, the Western press framed these rapes as part of Serbia's virulent a nri-
Muslim discourse that portrayed them as Christ sl3ycrs who had to be purged from
the land. The juxtaposition of these violated bodies with Serbi;.m rhetoric preach-
ing a policy of ethnic cleansing escalated international furor and eventuated in charges
of Wdr crimes brought against the Bosnian Serb military leaders. It also strengrh-
ened the resolve of NATO to use military force when Serbia seemed determined to
repeat hisrory in Kosovo.
In both rhese cases, molested bodies were framed by larger idemities rhat tran-
'icended the specific violence and were represenred by it. Unlike the stories of par-
ticular women whose pain is confIned to their personal trauma, theirs was a public
pain, presented to and experienced by the larger communi ty rhey had come to rep-
rc<,ent. Their bodies spoke a rhetorical language that grounded the historicity of a
i. ity and a people they had C(\:~lt' to exemplifY as no anecdotal representation possi-

bly could. Certainly, other factors <1\.<;0 contributed ro the differences in puhlic sen-
timent evoked by the Meese Commission witnesses ami the Muslim women or the
Central Park jogger. However, chief among them surely must be how their pain was


goJiI~' anguish makes claims on our compassion. Publicized, it becomes a rherori-

t,al :\tJtcmem urging sympathetic response to end its suffering and safeguard its well-
b('ing. As wirh all rhetoric, its capacity (0 move is neither vaguely generic nor gen-
eral but tied to its status as a particular case. In its particularity, its pain is its own.
Yet. 3S its pain makes its worldly appearance as inHicted by an oppres~i\'~ other, its
relief be(Qme~ the possihility of concerted response. Relarionships can be alrered,

and how cbe arttnding. public understands ib pJrril'ularit!· hears direccly on the bod:·'s
evocative power to instigare change.
Ari~code's On Rh('{t!l"i( ( 1991) discusses palilflt:!,m" a.'> che me of panicular c.l'>l':-
co influence the duJiencc·s judgmenr. In mosc C<be~. he ohserves, the panicular (.!~c
seryc.'- a~ familiar evidence dra\\'n from rhe audielli. . l"~ experience co exemplif~· [he
poirH h~'ing made. Its illusrrative character make:, it <l form of suppOrt. However,
on tlll.l~ion, when there is no ready premise to hrin~ [he audience to a sound judg-
menr. p.tniculars can serve dS che primary argumelH. In such cases, he held. par-
riculars assume paradigmatic strength. In more recent lime.'>. Cha'im Perelman and
Lucie Olbrcch[s-T:'[eca (1969, 35U-37)) poinc our chat in thc~e cases \'I'here the
particular goes beyond the argumencacive function of illusrracion ro accually make
che rhecor's case, they serve as models articulating the shape of che world and how
we might be in ir. Particulars can so exemplify a paine Or mode of conducc char ir
.,;erves as a model.
The hunger strike can satisfy this paradigmatic funCtion through its potential to
he a lightning rod for the energy of public discussion. By calIin~ 'lociety dnd the world
co witness its grueling anorexic ordeal, the stdrving hody can alrer the public cur-
rency for assessing its master's worth. Public starvation posit~ civilicy a~ a fundamental
coin of the poli cical real m. as the fllndamenral ethical basis on wh ic.h a soc iety or- itself. The prisoner of conscience. finding his voice silenced, can speak wich
his hody, As his acts of rl'sistance are punished, [he authoriries risk the danger an or
outside world, incensed hy [he eloquence ora body in pain. finding that body's suf-
fering representative of ~l misguided political s[[ucrure. As dangerous as a political
prisoner is alive, he i,~ more dangerous nl~Jrr~Ted and dead.
COllvl'rsdy. sexu.ll \'inlence is nor typir.dly enacred in public. \\lumen's srorie~ of'
pain intlicced outside the glare of publicity are accounts of pen;()I1JI ~:xperience. They
are not parr of a common experience whose reality each observer must acknowledge.
W'itllOll! a h~~me that gives them some p,uadigmatic \'alue. they ,ue susceptihle to
b('ing received as merely anecdoral. The stories of battered and raped women who
have been subjected co horrendous forms of degradation ,lnd humiliation are urgent
pleas by bodies in pain for a civil society's compassionate intervention. However, her
transportability co multiple contexts mahs each woman's story just a story, Ulti-
mately, the inability to control their narrative or it~ [n~atment ;1\ ;1 personal scory
and. therefore, its evidentiary staCus prevents this rhetoric of the body from lX'com-
ing paradigmatic in a way that compcis social action.
Our public experience of the body in pain is part of a larger historical and cul-
cural dialogue on the body. In this dialogue, the bodies of the hunger scriker and
the sexually assaulted differ in their capacicy to control their own bodies, co end or
continue rheir pain, (0 author their own public narrative of what they experience
or co have it co-opced, co make cheir pain s~'mptomatic of a larger issue or CO have
it reduced [() their personal s[Or:', or to engage us with dnd by their pain or with a
sC()J'~' about it. These differences in authorial clpalit:, are further inflected by press
coverage that frames their anguish. Despice the inherently rhewrieal siruaceJ and
Bo(/)' Rll('tori( 1')5

particular discmml' rhat theSt bodies in pain Spl'.t1c they are unable to speak their
own meaning unassisted. Their claims acquire (faction on public imagillLltion as they
are cast in a public languJge thar articulates their specific \'ulnerabiliry and need for
our response. If their claims are foremost to the immediacy of their circumstances.
ultimately they seek to make their bodies paradigmatic through their fusion with a
larger cause. By fusing their pain with the power thar ha,\ cJUsed it and by making
us witness w it. lhc~' pose the ominous burden of self-indicrmenr should we remain
inactive \\hcn \\'C ha\ l' the power to act. How we hear and respond to them is in-
fluenced by how the press frames them as p3rticuhu casc~.


I, ,\risLOde's On Rh('{urir: A Th('ol") , olCwit Dij((//(rsr r j (Jln) coullsel, [hit[ jitlr.ldl:r:;md is

Ollt' 01 two m\JJe~ or rhetori~al arguments; it is a rhetorical indU\:tioll thar .1rgues from p:lrt
to pan, USll~dl~'. rhe t~rrn ptlr.rdigrnu is translared as "cx.ampiL-," ,1nJ ArislUrle hold, that in
most ~.tses the e\,II11pk ~hllU.ld be employed .15 a form of illustr~Hion properly useJ afrer an
eruhymeI11c:'. or rill'[(lriCll syllogism. has been constructed, However. in SO Jl) l' L;l:>e~, \\!Jell
enthYlllemes are Ilot available:, the argument proper is rn.IJe through the: rich ('xamrk, or
(he p;Hadi~1l1 l.I~l', For a Jiscu~sion ~)t' thl' docrrine in Aristotle, ;;ee H:lU~l'r (jl)6S. 19R'i).
2. '·he IRA prisoller~ maJe five demands. which woulJ have given dH:rn rhe same trc:ar-
ment .b polirical prisoIlers and were the manifest cornersrone of lhc hunger strike, radraig
O'Malley (j l)90. 3) summarizes them as follows: "the right to wear [heir ow,. .Indw\: to
refrain frorn pri,on work; to Jssodatc: freely with one another: (0 organize recfI.:ation.l1 facilities
and to ha\ l' OIlC ktter. visit, and parcel a week; and to have lost remission time restored."