The “honor crime” poses perhaps more starkly than any other contemporary cultural-legal category the dilemmas of feminist scholarship and rights activism in a transnational world. Marked as a culturally specific form of violence and given a special and stigmatizing association with Muslims, especially after the 1990s, the honor crime does significant political work in the world today. Through an examination of popular literature, human rights reports, and anthropological and sociological studies, this article uncovers the forces that produce and maintain this category of spectacular cultural violence; the elements of popular fantasy that animate it; the forms of modern state and transnational power the category occludes; and the ahistorical and divisive civilizational thinking it encourages. Drawing both on ethnography from one Egyptian Bedouin community in which honor is a key moral value and on the critical analysis of diverse representations of the honor crime in Germany, Sweden, Palestine, Turkey, Jordan, and elsewhere, the author explores how the seductive power of the honor crime, mixing sexual titillation and moral horror, and its truly polymorphous interpretive capacity have enabled it to emerge as a robust category implicated in projects that include the policing and exclusions of immigrants; nation-states' disciplinary penetration of rural and urban subaltern communities; dominance by specific national, ethnic, or class groups; manipulation of liberal values in the service of assertions of Western superiority; and justifications of international intervention and transnational governance in the name of women's rights, including by feminists.

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