A book with an illustration of a chair under a lamplight

Hurt: Notes on Torture in a Modern Democracy

by Kristian Williams Author

HURT is Portland activist Kristian Williams' collection of articles and interviews on the history, psychology, and current state of torture in democratic societies. Williams, author of Our Enemies in Blue and American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination, has pulled together a vast and comprehensive resource on this abominable act. Articles include David Cunningham's “Prisons, Torture, and Imperialism,” a piece on the anarchist perspective taken from comments at the 2008 Anarchist Bookfair in San Francisco, and a great essay on writing about torture, among many others. This sober 64-page document is a heavy piece of work—dark, informative, and oft times harrowing. But it's also about working hard to enact change. As says Williams in the Gyozo Nehez interview, “At the outset, I think it's more important to have a sense of hope, that things can be different and through our actions we can contribute to that change. The joy comes later, from struggle itself as much as from victory.” HURT is a how-to manual on fighting and understanding torture—a piece of the struggle itself.

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Comments & Reviews


"these writings are the result of well-reasoned and researched thinking and go a long way in educating the reader on the causes and underlying factors of torture in the 21st century"
—Chris Auman, Reglar Wiglar



"As prisoners from Georgia, Ohio, and California decry the torture of long-term isolation and years of brutality, as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion and remember how New York tortured surviving prison leaders, Hurt: Notes on Torture in a Modern Democracy by Kristian Williams is an important contribution to deepening our commitment to ending human rights violations and fighting for a more just world."


"For more than a decade Kristian Williams has been poking at the grim underbelly of U.S. politics with unrelenting clarity. In Hurt: Notes on Torture in a Modern Democracy, Williams levels his attention on a wide range of issues, from torture to prison abolition to anarchism to the role of media in contemporary society. For those willing to engage the complexities and shortcomings of U.S.American democracy—replete with its internal contradictions, marginalized populations, professionalized politics, and yammering classes—Kristian Williams is your guy and Hurt is a constructive step forward."


""In these short, engaging, and readable chapters Kristian Williams explores the hurt caused by the state when it chooses to use torture. Hurt challenges the modern, democratic states' use of torture as part of challenging the state itself. To challenge the state we have many tasks, reading Hurt is the first."


"...It was good to see Williams not reverting to the familiar arguments on everything; tying in torture with police and the U.S. prison system really is quite interesting. However, the apex of Williams’s argument is that getting rid of the apparatuses that allow abuse and torture and working towards an anarchist system is what would solve this despicable practice. I wondered who would be reading this beyond people who already agreed with the premise and conclusions. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a very worthwhile topic to discuss, but this discussion needs to move from beyond anarchist circles and into some kind of action. How is that done? Beats me. I just review stuff."