Unnecessary evil: An examination of Abu Ghraib torture photographs as postcolonial resistance rhetoric

Patrick Gerhardt Richey


The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the rhetorical nature of visual artifacts in a postcolonial context. In order to examine the nature of visual artifacts as a form of resistance against static ideologies and prevailing power structures, the author uses both media and cultural artifacts created in response to photographs taken of abused prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib Correctional Facility. The dissertation adds to scholarly knowledge of communication by addressing the intersections of iconographic visual communication and postcolonial resistance rhetoric. The dissertation provides a scholarly review of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, as well as of literature explicating visual rhetoric theories. The dissertation likewise proposes a research question and constructs a theoretical lens that challenges Hariman and Lucaites's (2002, 2003) concepts regarding iconography. The dissertation investigates concepts of postcolonialism and Islam in light of a static American ideology. Finally, the dissertation investigates how political cartoonists and artists hijacked Abu Ghraib images in order to resist American ideology.