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Rebecca Boguska
Doctoral candidate, first cohort (2017-2020)

Guantánamo Frames

Guantánamo Frames investigates how ‘minor’ media objects – such as photographs, online videos of virtual visits, and other media objects – related to the Guantánamo detention camp, produced and distributed by the US Department of Defense and Joint Task Force Guantánamo, have never simply been a ‘given,’ that is, objects which merely depict circumstances at the camp as they are, and show us what can be seen from and known about the facility. Quite the opposite, in fact: throughout the four chapters of this dissertation, I demonstrate that these objects are the products and results of the intense planning, production, distribution, and framing efforts undertaken by the US government. This led me to argue that a critical engagement with how the US government tries to control our perception Guantánamo requires an in-depth analysis of the various institutional frames it has deployed to delineate what we can perceive from, and know about, the camp and the situation of its detainees.

Following Judith Butler’s observation about our understanding of war, Guantánamo frames—be they visual, technological, or institutional—have consistently imposed “constraints on what can be heard, read, seen, felt, and known” about the detention camp. Thinking about how these media objects have been framed by the US Department of Defense and the Joint Task Force Guantánamo, it became clear to me that, despite them being a powerful tool to limit what we can perceive, the Guantánamo frames are flawed or even ‘defective’ in themselves. Significantly, small ‘ruptures’ in these frames have come to be points of departure for interventions initiated in various fields—for example, by human rights lawyers, artists, journalists, and the detainees themselves—which reveal that every attempt taken by the US Department of Defense to normatively regulate what we can perceive from the Guantánamo detention camp is “shadowed by its own failure.” Hence, in each of my chapters, I illustrate how the institutional attempts to regulate the production, distribution, and perception of these objects have failed, insofar as the latter could not be entirely controlled by the US government and Department of Defense.



Fig. 1:
1stMPAC, Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility—Virtual Visit Camp X-Ray, published on June 5, 2008, 00:02:03, screenshot, Link
Fig. 2:
Fig. 3:
US Department of Administration, DOD Hospital Patient Record re: Incident at Guantánamo Hospital, October 7, 2004: 2, screenshot, Link
Fig. 4:
Fig. 5:
Joint Task Force Guantánamo, Detainee Behavioral Tracking, in Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, March 28, 2003: 174, screenshot, Link


Rebecca Boguska received her BA in Theater, Film and Media Studies from the University of Vienna and her MA in Theory and History of Film and Gender Studies from the University of Zurich. From 2017 to 2020 she was a research fellow at the Graduiertenkolleg “Configurations of Film.” The focus of her PhD project is on ‘minor’ media objects from the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp which were produced and distributed by the US government and military.