The Detainee’s Two Bodies: Intellectual Property and Fugitivity at Guantánamo Bay

Abstract: The article argues that the denial of detainee intellectual property rights at Guantánamo Bay calls attention to new modalities of fugitivity and postcolonial citizenship. Examining paintings created by current and former detainees as well as Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s redacted memoir Guantánamo Diary (2015/2017), the article poses two key questions: How do we understand the status of post-9/11 art made in captivity? And what is the significance of the claim of US state ownership over such art? Following Stephen Best’s argument that US intellectual property laws were heavily influenced by Fugitive Slave Laws, the article theorizes “detainee copyright” to spotlight the political significance of detainees’ artistic and cultural work against the state’s fear of fugitive meaning. The triangulation of intellectual property, art and life-writing, and state censorship produces the detainee’s two bodies: the material body shackled in indefinite detention and the metaphorical body demanding public circulation.

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About Kalyan Nadiminti

Kalyan Nadiminti is an Assistant Professor of English at Northwestern University. They are currently writing a monograph that examines how contemporary South Asian literature in English, in dialogue with Middle Eastern and North African literatures, confronts the effects of the Global War on Terror on postcolonial and Global South sovereignties. Their work has appeared in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Post45/Contemporaries, Journal of Asian American Studies, and other venues. They have guest-edited a cluster of essays for Post45/Contemporaries, "Extraordinary Renditions," that tracks how Global South representations of 9/11 and the War on Terror have generated a proliferating critical counter-archive of insurgency.