Expert on torture to speak at WestConn

Neuwirth Lecture Series
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DANBURY, CONN. — Dr. Darius Rejali, a nationally recognized expert on government torture and interrogation, will be the keynote speaker of the Steven D. Neuwirth Annual Arts and Sciences Lecture at Western Connecticut State University.

Rejali, a professor of political science at Reed College in Oregon, will discuss his most recent book, “Torture and Democracy,” an examination of the use of torture by democracies in the 20th century. The author demonstrates that as democracy, human rights and the free press flourished after World War II, so did the market for “clean” torture techniques that leave no evidentiary scars. Rejali reveals the most controversial Western intelligence-gathering techniques — including the use of drugs, stress positions and waterboarding — and questions if their use actually hinders the torturer’s ability to gather credible intelligence.

The lecture will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25, in Room 125 of the Science Building on WestConn’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury A reception will follow and Rejali will sign copies of his book. The university is conducting an essay contest in connection with Rejali’s visit, with winners announced at the lecture.

Rejali was born in Iran, a culture that shaped his academic scholarship. As he said in an interview with Harper’s Magazine in February, “Most people think torture is a barbaric survivor and that it would disappear over time with progress. This is a mistake, and my experience growing up in Iran taught me that. … I used Iran to show that while old ritualistic, public torture would disappear over time, other tortures would survive and new techniques would appear, let’s call these modern torture.”

“Torture and Democracy” won the 2007 Human Rights Book of the Year Award from the American Political Science Association. The award is decided on the merits of the book’s scholarship and for its capacity to influence policy or bring about change in human rights conventions.

In 2003, the Carnegie Corporation of New York named Rejali a Carnegie Scholar and awarded him a grant of $100,000. Rejali was one of 13 scholars selected in 2003 in this prestigious and highly competitive national competition across multiple fields.

Rejali is also the author of “Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran,” as well as many recent articles on violence including masculinity and torture, media representations of torture, the political thought of Osama bin Ladin, the history of electric torture, the practice of stoning in the Middle East, the treatment of refugees who have been tortured, and theories of ethnic rape.

Rejali has been a member of the Reed faculty since 1989. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from McGill University and a B.A. in philosophy from Swarthmore College. He is a member of the editorial board of Human Rights Review.

The lecture series is held in honor of Dr. Steven Neuwirth, a longtime WestConn professor of English and specialist in Early American literature and history who died in February 2004. Neuwirth helped to establish the university’s Honors Program and served as its first director; he also contributed significantly to the organization of a multi-disciplinary American Studies curriculum at WestConn.

For more information, call the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.



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