Creating a kinder world
Creating a kinder world


Creating a kinder world

Macquarie alumnus Professor Joseph Pugliese (BA/DipEd 1985) has spent his career focusing on social justice issues, exploring deep themes like the relationship between knowledge and power, the way discrimination and injustice are meted out in today’s world, the concept of state violence and institutional racism, and ideas around regimes of colonialism and empire.

Today, Pugliese is the Professor of Cultural Studies and also Research Director of the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies at Macquarie, and he has been immersed in dark, dark work in recent years.

Over the past two decades, Pugliese has explored the operations of state colonialism on Indigenous people in Australia, where the institution of law was subverted to legitimate the aims of the powerful.

“From Governor Macquarie onwards, genocidal campaigns were conducted to usurp Indigenous lands and establish colonial state sovereignty,” he explains.

This historical colonial context meant the concept of governments continuing to subvert law for these purposes wasn’t a surprise.

“What did shock me was that people could continue to do that on such an expanded scale with the drone assassinations of children and civilians and the torture of hundreds of innocent civilians [during the War on Terror],” he says.

His research has also looked at the way that language was used to portray human subjects as ‘non-human animals’, and how this helped legitimise violent actions contravening domestic and international law and treaties, and conventions against torture.

The responses of commentators and military investigators following the release of photographs depicting US military torture at Abu Ghraib typifies our horror at these actions.

“The reaction was that this was an exceptional case down to a few rotten soldiers. But as a cultural historian, I saw direct links back to lynching and torture perpetrated by white supremacists on African Americans up until the 1930s, and the more recent torture practices performed on African-American prisoners in some of Chicago’s police stations. There’s still a lot of work that’s uncovering and exposing the targets of these practices of state violence.”

Ultimately, he hopes his work will transform the understanding of how these tactics are used by media and by governments to legitimate torture and other practices that violate international law.

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