Gender-Based Administrative Violence as Colonial Strategy

Philosophical Topics 46 (2):209-227 (2018)
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There is a growing trend across North America of women being criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes. Rather than being a series of aberrations resulting from institutional failures, we argue that this trend is part of a colonial strategy of administrative violence aimed at women of color and Native women across Turtle Island. We consider a range of medical and legal practices constituting gender-based administrative violence, and we argue that they are the result of non-accidental and systematic production of population-level harms that cannot be disentangled from the goals of ongoing settler occupation and dispossession of Indigenous lands. While white feminist narratives of gender-based administrative violence in Latin America function to distance the places where such violence occurs from the ‘liberal democratic’ settler nation-states of the U.S. and Canada, we hold that administrative forms of reproductive violence against Latin American women are structurally connected to efforts in the U.S. and Canada to criminalize women of color and Indigenous women for their reproductive outcomes. The purpose of these systemically produced harms is to sustain cultures of gender-based violence in support of settler colonial configurations of power.

Author Profiles

Elena Ruíz
Michigan State University
Nora Berenstain
University of Tennessee, Knoxville


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