Debi Cornwall (Brown ’95, Harvard Law School ’00) is a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a civil rights lawyer. Her work interrogates American power, marrying empathy and dark humor with systemic critique. Informed by her experience representing innocent DNA exonerees, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books 2017) offers a vivid and disorienting perspective on Guantánamo Bay and the global diaspora of men once held there, after they have been cleared and freed. The subject of one-woman exhibitions in China, Switzerland, and South Korea, Camp America is shown at the Public Humanities Center’s Carriage House Gallery in conjunction with the conference.
J. Wells Dixon is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he specializes in challenging unlawful detentions at the Guantánamo prison. Wells represents clients in federal court, before the military commissions at Guantánamo, and in various international proceedings. Among his clients are former Baltimore-area resident Majid Khan, who was imprisoned and tortured in secret CIA “black sites” for more than three years before he was transferred to Guantánamo, and David Hicks, an Australian citizen and one of the first men taken to Guantánamo after 9/11. Prior to coming to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Wells worked at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, where he specialized in white collar criminal defense and securities litigation. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado School of Law and a former law clerk to Federal Judge Christopher F. Droney in Connecticut. Wells is frequently cited as a Guantánamo expert in major news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and MSNBC, among others.
After attending high school in his native Mauritania, Mohamedou Ould Slahi won a full scholarship to study Microelectronics and Telecommunications in Germany. After more than a decade studying and working in Germany as an electrical engineer, he returned to Mauritania in 2000. On November 20, 2001, he reported to Mauritanian police for questioning. From there he was forcibly disappeared. He was renditioned to Jordan, and then to Bagram, and finally transferred to Guantanamo on August 5, 2002, where he was subjected to a brutal, year-long “special project” interrogation. He spent fourteen years in arbitrary detention in Guantanamo. He was finally released and transferred home to Mauritania on October 16, 2016. Slahi is the author of the international bestseller Guantánamo Diary (2015), an account of his time in detention. An interview with Slahi was broadcast on CBS’ 60 Minutes in March, 2017. Slahi will participate in this Symposium via video conference from Mauritania.
Esther Whitfield is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Hispanics Studies at Brown University, where she is also a Faculty Fellow at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. Her current research addresses war metaphors in Latin American political speech, literature and the arts, with a focus on the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and its place in Cuba.