Interrogation as a site of state sanctioned torture and violence


Using case studies and the results of extensive fieldwork, this book considers the nature of state power and legal violence in liberal democracies by focusing on the interaction between law, science, and policing in India. The postcolonial Indian police have often been accused of using torture in both routine and exceptional criminal cases, but they, and forensic psychologists, have claimed that lie detectors, brain scans, and narcoanalysis (the use of “truth serum,” Sodium Pentothal) represent a paradigm shift away from physical torture; most state high courts in India have upheld this rationale.

The Truth Machines examines the emergence and use of these three scientific techniques to analyze two primary themes. First, the book questions whether existing theoretical frameworks for understanding state power and legal violence are adequate to explain constant innovations of the state. Second, it explores the workings of law, science, and policing in the everyday context to generate a theory of state power and legal violence, challenging the monolithic frameworks about this relationship, based on a study of both state and non-state actors.

Jinee Lokaneeta argues that the attempt to replace physical torture with truth machines in India fails because it relies on a confessional paradigm that is contiguous with torture. Her work also provides insights into a police institution that is founded and refounded in its everyday interactions between state and non-state actors. Theorizing a concept of Contingent State, this book demonstrates the disaggregated, and decentered nature of state power and legal violence, creating possible sites of critique and intervention.

Jinee Lokaneeta is a professor in political science and international relations at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Truth Machines provides a fascinating–and at times harrowing–account of police interrogations in India today. She disentangles the complex morass of legal and scientific frameworks which are used to justify the exercise of state power upon the bodies of criminal suspects. Lokaneeta offers new frameworks for understanding the relationship of sovereignty and violence which will engage many readers.”
—Keally D. McBride, University of San Francisco

- Keally D. McBride, University of San Francisco

“Whether you are a fan of CSI or true crime shows, a political theorist specializing in rationales of violence or modes of policing, or an anthropologist who studies the everyday disarticulated practices of the State, you should read Truth Machines for the way it makes the world of forensics come alive. This theoretically sharp and ethnographically rich book will convince you that forensic ‘science’ is neither more reliable nor more humane than enhanced interrogation techniques, but is constituted through the imagination of those who tout its power.”
—Srimati Basu, University of Kentucky

- Srimati Basu, University of Kentucky

“With depth and theoretical sophistication, [The Truth Machines] will attract attention and make significant contributions to various fields, including contemporary political theory, legal studies, critical police studies, comparative politics, and South Asian studies. The contribution seems timely, as political science starts acknowledging the relevance of policing and other connected practices.”
—Guillermina Seri, Union College

- Guillermina Seri, Union College

"As Lokaneeta’s insightful work shows us, violence and contingency remain at the heart of the state, even as science and the law constantly work together to maintain the facade of coherence and rationality. The book charts a way to understand the modes through which state violence operates, and the ways in which it can be revealed." 
Law, Culture and the Humanities

- Mayur Suresh

"The Truth Machines is a valuable addition to the discourse on police reform in India precisely because it complicates the questions in the hope of avoiding the pitfalls of easy answers."
Social Change 

- Alok Prassana

"...Lokaneeta’s tremendously clever, prize-winning new study The Truth Machines [is] an inquiry into how law, science, and violence enfold in India today in ways that are at once novel and familiar. ...Lokaneeta’s book neatly reveals the symmetry between the late modern epistemology of painlessness on which the truth machines are premised and the early modern epistemology of pain that they promise to transcend." 
Law & Social Inquiry

- Law & Social Inquiry

Co-Winner: American Political Science Association (APSA) 2021 C. Herman Pritchett Book Award

- APSA C. Herman Pritchett Book Award

"Overall, this is an essential work on the history of coercion and efforts to regulate it in India." —Indian Journal of Medical Ethics

- Steven H Miles

"Lokaneeta skillfully combines interviews with police, lawyers, forensic psychologists and human rights activists with analysis of a range of textual and visual materials, to situated case histories in their wider context... This book will inspire much debate and inquiry and must be read widely."
Contributions to Indian Sociology

- Sahana Ghosh

Honorable Mention: 2022 Distinguished Book Award, Asian Law and Society Association

- ALSA Distinguished Book Award

Winner: Drew University (DU) 2022 Bela Kornitzer Award for Nonfiction

- DU Bela Kornitzer Award for Nonfiction

Listen: Do polygraphs and narcoanalysis work in criminal investigations? In Focus podcast, The Hindu | 1/20/2023 
Read: Narcoanalysis has little Scientific Grounding. The Hindustan Times | 11/25/2022
Listen: Interview with Excited Utterance Podcast | 3/21/2022
Read: Article on The Truth Machines by Drew University | 10/5/2021
Read: Review in The Telegraph India | 4/9/2021
Watch: University of Toronto book event with Jinee Lokaneeta | 3/26/2021
Listen: Interview with the Detention Solidarity Network Podcast | 12/16/2020
Watch: Book Discussion with Jinee Lokaneeta on LiveLaw | 12/10/2020
Listen: Interview with New Books Network | 11/30/2020
Read: Review in The India Forum | 11/27/2020
Read: Book is highlighted in the author's article in the Indian Express I 10/19/2020
Read: Review in Mainstream | 09/18/2020
Read: Interview with Jinee Lokaneeta on Indian Journal of Law and Publi Policy | 09/02/2020
Watch: Jinee Lokaneeta presents "Policing in a Democracy," a Solidarity across Distances lecture | 08/26/2020
Read: A book discussion of The Truth Machines in Law and Other Things | 7/04/2020–7/13/2020
Read: Review in Seminar Magazine | 1/2/2021

"What does the turn to using 'truth serums' (narcoanalysis) mean for India’s police?" |  The Big Q
"Scaffold of the Rule of Law—Terror Suspects and the Experience of Violence"  | The Polis Project
"Why Police in India Use 'Third-Degree' Torture Methods for Interrogation" | The Wire