Speaker analyzes Abu Ghraib images



University of Colorado professor Gerard Hauser visited IU Thursday evening to speak about the controversial photographs released in 2004 which depicted tortured prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison.

In response to the photographs, he argued, citizens of the United States allowed their attention to be directed to irrelevant aspects of the issue. Americans then treated it as an isolated incident, he said.

His visit came only eight days after Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist who broke the story in 2004, gave a lecture at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

A smiling and soft-spoken man, Hauser thanked the graduate student who introduced him as he took the podium. As the lecture went on, he lost his smile, raising his voice as he discussed the shape of national rhetoric surrounding the photographs.

Early in the lecture, Hauser quoted from Hersh’s article: “The photographs say it all”.

He challenged Hersh’s statement, saying the way the photographs were circulated created meaning beyond their surface values. Hauser said he thinks American politicians, media and private citizens missed the point of the photographs.

“I was concerned with the ways in which ... Americans did not respond to the call to conscience raised by the images,” he said. “Why did we choose to blame the soldiers?”

The Department of Communication and Culture invited Hauser to speak as part of the annual J. Jeffery Auer speaker series, named after a former IU professor who was a pioneer in the field of communication and rhetorical analysis.

Jennifer Heusel, a graduate student in the Department of Communication and Culture, said she has been attending the Auer speaker series since 2007. She is particularly interested in the study of rhetoric.

“This is a great opportunity to meet established scholars in the field,” she said.
Like Heusel, graduate student Philip Perdue is studying rhetoric in the Department of Communication and Culture. He said the opportunities to attend lectures like Hauser’s are the reason that he came to IU.

“One of the questions he’s asking is a central question of rhetoric,” Perdue said. “What are these photos doing ... or in this case, what are these photos not doing for people?”

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