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Title: Overkill : the sexualised body in violent identity politics
Authors: Armstrong, Megan Ann
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis seeks to understand the nature of a particular kind of sexualised, abject violence that emerges in and through identity politics. This violence is practised against or through the body. I refer to this type of violence as ‘overkill’ and contend that it performatively constitutes identity in abject and sexualised ways through the weaponisation and brutalisation of the body. The thesis is situated within the literature on ethnic identities in conflict, which tends to under-theorise how this violence emerges and what this violence accomplishes by viewing violence as the outcome of pre-existing identity divisions. To address this gap, I introduce two theoretical approaches to the examination of violent identity politics. The first of these is the concept of performativity as formulated by Judith Butler (1990), which views identity as an iterative process constitutive of political subjectivity. The second is a theory of abjection as discussed by Julia Kristeva (1980), in which she argues that the constitution of identity is an exclusionary process that requires the simultaneous production of an other. Taken together, these theoretical approaches allow for an understanding of extreme violence as constitutive of a new kind of subjectivity that renders the other abject through sexualised discourses. There are two dynamics of overkill that this thesis explores: the brutalisation and the weaponisation of the body. Using an empirical study of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, I highlight the brutalisation of the sexualised body; through a second case study of the prison protests in Northern Ireland (1976-1981), I draw out the weaponisation of the sexualised body. I conclude by demonstrating the need for an understanding of identity as contingent upon markers of difference that are sexualised through abjection to establish a better explanatory framework for examining political violence.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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