Empire, Desire and Violence: A Queer Transnational Feminist Reading of the Prisoner ‘Abuse’ in Abu Ghraib and the Question of ‘Gender Equality'

Citation:

Richter-Montpetit, Melanie. 2007. “Empire, Desire and Violence: A Queer Transnational Feminist Reading of the Prisoner ‘Abuse’ in Abu Ghraib and the Question of ‘Gender Equality.’” International Feminist Journal of Politics 9 (1): 38-59.

Author: Melanie Richter-Montpetit

Abstract:

Dominant discourses in the United States paint the acts of prisoner 'abuse' committed by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib in 2003 as either the obscene but exceptional example of some low-ranking soldiers gone mad, or as the direct result of the suspension of the rule of law in the global 'war on terror'. Alternatively, feminist theorist Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that the pictures depicting female soldiers torturing prisoners are both horrifying and a sign of 'gender equality'. This article departs from all three of these positions. I argue that the micro-level violences shown in the Abu Ghraib pictures are neither just aberrations nor a sign of gender equality. Rather they follow a pre-constructed heterosexed, racialized and gendered script that is firmly grounded in the colonial desires and practices of the larger social order and that underpins the hegemonic 'save civilization itself'-fantasy of the 'war on terror'. I explore how the participation of some of the US Empire's internal Others, namely White western women, may disrupt some of the social processes of normalization underpinning this colonial fantasy, but nevertheless serves to re/produce the identity and hegemony of the US Empire and its heterosexed, racialized and classed World (Dis)Order.

Keywords: Abu Ghraib, civilization, colonial, desires, Ehrenreich, empire, fantasy, gender equality, militarized masculinity, orientalism, US, 'Whiteness'

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Feminisms, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Race, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, SV against men, Violence

Year: 2007

© 2020 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.