In an Abusive State


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface xi
1. The Sexual Violence Agenda: Feminists and the State 1
2. Gender War: The Cultural Representation of Sexual Violence 16
3. Expressive Justice: The Symbolic Function of the Gang Rape Trial 36
4. Administrative Injustice: The Growth of the Therapeutic State 63
5. Victim Insurgency: The State as a Dangerous Stranger 96
6. Universalizing Gender Justice: At Home and Abroad 132
Conclusion 155
Notes 167
Bibliography 189
Index 209

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How the success of feminist campaigns to combat and stigmatize rape and domestic violence has had some unintended negative consequences for poor people and minorities

About the Author

Kristin Bumiller is Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at Amherst College. She is the author of Civil Rights Society: The Social Construction of Victims.


"Kristin Bumiller describes a sane, intelligent path through the cyclical race and gender passion plays that have spun out--and spun out of control--on the national media stage. From the Central Park Jogger case to O. J. Simpson, Bumiller is never polemical. This book provides much-needed perspective as she details the conscious and unconscious ingredients in how such polarization is choreographed, and how boundaries are subtly but intransigently marked."--Patricia J. Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law, Columbia University, and columnist for The Nation "In an Abusive State provides a needed and instructive retrospective of the violence against women movement. Kristin Bumiller brings into focus the uneasy alliance between feminists and the state by looking critically at the official conduct of rape trials and domestic assault cases, as well as the routine surveillance of women considered 'dependent.' Using extensive empirical analysis, she exposes the limitations of strategies that attempt to incorporate feminist practices within mainstream institutions. This important and timely book will set the agenda for a new era of feminist activism--one that begins with the realization that mounting fundamental challenges to systems of social control means working outside of the existing institutional structures of the state."--Martha Albertson Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, Emory University "Built on demanding scholarship, informed by collective feminist praxis, In an Abusive State engages the lives of women experiencing the personal trauma of and institutional responses to sexual violence. Committed, reflective, accessible, and challenging, Kristin Bumiller critically maps the structural relations of inequality and marginalization underpinning women's relationships to the authoritarian state and its regulatory institutions. Internationally significant, her excellent analysis exposes the policy deficits of restraint and criminalization and of attempting to affirm rights without addressing women's social, political, and economic exclusion."--Phil Scraton, Queen's University, Belfast, author of Power, Conflict, and Criminalisation "...this is one of the most invigorating and challenging books I have read for years. It is a "must-read"...she has convincingly identified a major dilemma in our responses to sexual is refreshing to read a book that so clearly demands that we clarify and rethink our positions." Joanna Bourke, Times Higher Education, 3rd July 2008

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