A queer renovation of “rape” requires beginning not with actors, but with acts, which brings into view the central role of the state as a perpetrator of sexual violence. Radical feminists moved the “paradigmatic scene” of rape from the stranger in the alley to the acquaintance in the bedroom: rape was a problem not of exceptional perversion, but of ordinary heterosexuality. The works surveyed in this essay center the scene of state detention, showing how regimes of policing in a racial capitalist state always frame and prototype sexual violence. The author pursues this argument in three passes: history (the discourse around Michel Foucault’s treatment of the Charles Jouy case), aesthetics (the conflation of state and domestic violence in the installations of Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum), and activism (the convergence of abolitionist and antirape movements in the 1970s writings of Angela Davis and the memoirs of the Scottsboro Boys).
Policing (as) the Paradigmatic Scene of Rape
michael dango is an assistant professor of English and media studies and affiliated faculty in critical identity studies at Beloit College. He is the author of Crisis Style: The Aesthetics of Repair (Stanford University Press, 2021), which theorizes how stylistic developments in contemporary fiction, sculpture, film, and design respond to a sense of pervasive crisis. The present article comes from his second book manuscript, “What Does Rape Look Like? Sexual Violence and Aesthetic Education,” which argues that an aesthetic discourse better understands sexual violence than the legal and public health discourses that have dominated its discussion most recently. Other writings have appeared or are forthcoming in New Literary History, Modern Fiction Studies, Post45, Social Text, Novel, and Signs, as well as para-academic forums such as Public Books, the New Inquiry, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Artforum.
Michael Dango; Policing (as) the Paradigmatic Scene of Rape. differences 1 December 2021; 32 (3): 25–52. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-9479688
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