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Necropolitics, Narcopolitics, and Femicide: Gendered Violence on the Mexico-U.S. Border

Melissa W. Wright
Signs
Vol. 36, No. 3 (March 2011), pp. 707-731
DOI: 10.1086/657496
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/657496
Page Count: 25
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Necropolitics, Narcopolitics, and Femicide: Gendered
Violence on the Mexico-U.S. Border
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Abstract

Abstract In 1993, a group of women shocked Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, with the news that dozens of girls and women had been murdered and dumped, like garbage, around the city during the year. As the numbers of murders grew over the years, and as the police forces proved unwilling and unable to find the perpetrators, the protestors became activists. They called the violence and its surrounding impunity “femicide,” and they demanded that the Mexican government, at the local, state, and federal levels, stop the violence and capture the perpetrators. Nearly two decades later, the city’s infamy as a place of femicide is giving way to another terrible reputation as a place of unprecedented drug violence. Since 2006, more than six thousand people have died in the city, as have more than twenty-eight thousand across the country, in relation to the violence associated with the restructuring of the cartels that control the production and distribution of illegal drugs. In response to the public outcry against the violence, the Mexican government has deployed thousands of troops to Ciudad Juárez as part of a military strategy to secure the state against the cartels. In this essay, I argue that the politics over the meaning of the drug-related murders and femicide must be understood in relation to gendered violence and its use as a tool for securing the state. To that end, I examine the wars over the interpretation of death in northern Mexico through a feminist application of the concept of necropolitics as elaborated by the postcolonial scholar Achille Mbembe. I examine how the wars over the political meaning of death in relation both to femicide and to the events called “drug violence” unfold through a gendering of space, of violence, and of subjectivity. My objective is twofold: first, to demonstrate how the antifemicide movement illustrates the stakes for a democratic Mexican state and its citizens in a context where governing elites argue that the violence devastating Ciudad Juárez is a positive outcome of the government’s war against organized crime; and second, to show how a politics of gender is central to this kind of necropolitics.

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