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Austin Sarat and Keshav Pant

This chapter examines methods of execution in the United States, France, Germany, Japan and China. It describes the methods employed in each nation and how they work. We consider how each nation addresses the problems of spectacle and pain in their execution practices and the adequacy of the ‘civilizing hypothesis’ in explaining variation in those practices. We argue that more brutal and gruesome methods of execution are reserved for states under a great deal of pressure, either internally or from foreign powers. We note that the United States remains an outlier. Despite its modernity, westernization and relative security, the US boasts a whopping five different legal methods of execution and is unusual in its explicit commitment to prohibiting cruelty in the execution process.