Michelle Velasquez-Potts

Dissertation Title

Technologies of Incapacitation: US Torture Regimes and the Captive Body

Image of Michelle Velasquez-Potts


e: mpotts@berkeley.edu

Research Interests

political theory, science and technology studies, feminist and queer theory, critical ethnic studies, critical prison studies, visual cultures, hunger striking, political protest, the weaponization of the body, ethics of pain and suffering.


Michelle is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Rhetoric at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation, Technologies of Incapacitation: US Torture Regimes and the Captive Body focuses on what she refers to as “carceral vivisections,” technologies and practices deployed by state actors that seek to literally and figuratively open up the body in order to discipline, manage, and punish incarcerated people. Michelle’s work foregrounds the medicalized dimension of carceral subjection by asking: how do embodied technologies such as the feeding tube function as a new kind of torture that mediates the corporeal and political sovereignty of the captive in different or novel ways? Central to her remapping of the development of US torture and interrogation techniques post-Cold War are the embodied tactics practiced by those held captive at Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Since 2002, hunger strikers at Guantánamo have been subjected to involuntary force-feeding. By reading hunger striking alongside of force-feeding, Technologies of Incapacitation emphasizes the body’s ability to draw from its own debilitation, effectively working with and against the penal state. How the body negotiates these competing contingencies opens up space to re-think the agentive potential of pain, suffering, and disability within the parameters of incarceration, and biomedicalization.