How is White Supremacy Embodied? Sexualized Racial Violence at Abu Ghraib


Razack, Sherene. 2005. “How Is White Supremacy Embodied? Sexualized Racial Violence at Abu Ghraib.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 17 (2): 341–63.

Author: Sherene Razack


The violence inflicted on Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, by both male and female American and British soldiers, was very clearly sexualized. A pyramid of naked male prisoners forced to simulate sodomy conveyed graphically that the project of empire, the West's domination of the non-West, requires strong infusions of a violent heterosexuality and patriarchy. This article explores what we can learn from Abu Ghraib about how empire is embodied and how it comes into existence through multiple systems of domination. In the first part, I discuss the role of visual practices and the making of racial hierarchies a consideration made necessary by the 1,800 photos of torture. In the second part, I consider the violence as a ritual that enables white men to achieve a sense of mastery over the racial other, at the same time that it provides a sexualized intimacy forbidden in white supremacy and patriarchy. In the third part of this article, I consider the role of white women at Abu Ghraib, arguing that it is as members of their race that we can best grasp white women's participation in the violence—a participation that facilitates the same mastery and gendered intimacy afforded to white men who engage in racial violence. In the conclusion, I consider the regime of racial terror in evidence at Abu Ghraib and other places, focusing on terror as a "trade in mythologies" that organizes the way that bodies come to express the racial arrangements of empire.

Keywords: political prisoners, prisons, race, heterosexuality, patriarchy, torture, sexual violence

Topics: Combatants, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Race, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Male Perpetrators, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, SV against Men, SV against Women, Sexuality Regions: MENA, Americas, North America, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iraq, United States of America

Year: 2005

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