Inner Space 11: Violent subversion of the room

"In torture, the world is reduced to a single room or set of rooms. Called “guest rooms” in Greece and “safe houses” in the Philippines, the torture rooms are often given names that acknowledge and call attention to the generous, civilizing impulse normally present in the human shelter. They call attention to this impulse only as prelude to announcing its annihilation. The torture room is not just the setting in which the torture occurs; it is not just the space that happens to house the various instruments used for beating and burning and producing electric shock. It is itself literally converted into another weapon, into an agent of pain. All aspects of the basic structure— walls, ceiling, windows, doors— undergo this conversion. Basques tortured by the Spanish describe “el cerrojo,” the rapid and repeated bolting and unbolting of the door in order to keep them at all times in immediate anticipation of further torture, as one of the most terrifying and damaging acts. Found among PIDES’ paraphernalia in Portugal were manuscripts of gibberish which, according to the men and women brutalized there, were read at the doors of prisoners deprived of sleep for days. Solzhenitsyn describes how in Russia guards were trained to slam the door in as jarring a way as possible or to close it in equally unnerving silence. Former prisoners in the Philippines report having had their heads repeatedly banged into the wall. Israeli soldiers held in Syria describe being suspended from the ceiling in a tire that was swung as they were beaten, or having one’s genitals tied by a string to a door handle and having the string beaten. According to the testimony of Greeks tortured under the Colonels’ Regime, the act of looking out a window was made the occasion for beatings ...

The room, both in its structure and its content, is converted into a weapon, deconverted, undone. Made to participate in the annihilation of the prisoners, made to demonstrate that everything is a weapon, the objects themselves, and with them the fact of civilization, are annihilated: there is no wall, no window, no door, no bathtub, no refrigerator, no chair, no bed."

The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World by Elaine Scarry. Chapter "The Structure of Torture: The Conversion of Real Pain into the Fiction of Power", section II "The Objectification of the Prisoner's World Dissolution".