By Anjuli Kolb

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the defendants in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, holding that “[j]ail strip searches do not require reasonable suspicion, at least so long as the arrestee is being admitted into the general jail population.” Any crime could warrant a strip search, including walking a dog without a leash, or, as in the case of Albert Florence, wrongful arrest for fines already paid. Twice. In part two of a series on exposure, we turn to Derrida’s writings on apocalypse, and consider how the end of the world—at least insofar as the world can be sustained by the moral rectitude of world powers—begins with a forcible denuding. 


“The opinions in earlier proceedings, the briefs on file, and some cases of this Court refer to a “strip search.” The term is imprecise. It may refer simply to the instruction to remove clothing while an officer observes from a distance of, say, five feet or more; it may mean a visual inspection from a closer, more uncomfortable distance; it may include directing detainees to shake their heads or to run their hands through their hair to dislodge what might be hidden there; or it may involve instructions to raise arms, to display foot insteps, to expose the back of the ears, to move or spread the buttocks or genital areas, or to cough in a squatting position. In the instant case, the term does not include any touching of unclothed areas by the inspecting officer. There are no allegations that the detainees here were touched in any way as part of the searches.”

—Anthony Kennedy, Supreme Court Majority Opinion in Florence v Board of Chosen Freeholders, April 2, 2012.


“…one of the ‘bleus’ ordered her to strip. When she refused, he removed all her clothes himself, and with the aid of one of his accomplices, strapped her down in the dentist’s chair….Djamila was lashed down in the chair, completely naked, while her captors exchanged obscene jokes and drank beer, which they spat over her in mouthfuls till her body was all dripping wet. Then they tried to twist the electrical terminal wires round her nipples, but the wires slipped on her beer-drenched skin, so they fastened them into place with lengths of scotch tape.”

—Gilsèle Halimi with Simone de Beauvoir, Djamila Boupacha: The Story of the Torture of a Young Algerian Girl Which Shocked Liberal French Opinion1962.


Apokalupto, I disclose, uncover…I reveal the thing that can be a part of the body, the head or the eyes, a secret part, the genitals or what ever might be hidden, a secret, the thing to be dissembled, a thing that does not show itself or say itself, that perhaps signifies itself but cannot or must not first be handed over to its self-evidence…What seems most remarkable in all the Biblical examples I was able to remember and must forego exposing here is that the gesture of denuding or affording sight—the apocalypticmovement—is more serious here, sometimes more guilty and dangerous than what follows.”

—Jacques Derrida, “Of An Apocalyptic Tone Recently Adopted in Philosophy,” 1980. 

Let Me Recite What History Teaches (LMRWHT) is a weekly column that flashes the lavalamp, gaslight, candlelight, campfire, torch, sometimes even the starlight of the past on something that is happening now. The form of the column strives to recover what might be best about the “wide-eyed presentation of mere facts.” Each week you will find here some citational constellation, offered with astonishment and without comment, that can serve as an end in itself, dinner party fodder, or an occasion for further thought or writing. The title is taken from the last line of Stein’s poem “If I Told Him (A Completed Portrait of Picasso)."

Image: Picasso, sketch of Djamila Boupacha, August 12, 1961.