Thinking the Anachronistic Sovereign With Judith Butler: The Question of Gender in the Global War on Terrorism

In “Indefinite Detention,” Judith Butler identifies an anachronistic sovereign that emerges within the practices around national security. Sovereignty serves here as a decisive mechanism that pertains to whose life shall count and whose death may be mourned. In this way, the anachronistic emergence of sovereign power is ultimately bound up with biopolitics, as its exercise is tied to the differential valuing of life on the level of the population. Yet this conjunction between sovereign power and biopower in contemporary practices of securitization calls for an analysis of gender in the ways in which power is understood and exercised, often missing in the accounts of major political theorists. This essay focuses on the sexual politics of sovereignty, providing an analysis of the discursive and aesthetic construction of militarized masculinity that serves as a metonym for the nation. Through this construction, sovereignty is equated with and presented through a performance of militarized masculinity. The images that have been circulating in the social media from Turkey’s very own ‘war on terror’ attest to such aesthetic (re)production of the linkage between sovereignty and masculinity that grounds the exercise of a collision of biopower and sovereign power. These images display that the process of gendering the nation (as masculine) takes place precisely through the gendering of ‘the terrorist’ (as feminine) by way of a heteropatriarchal logic. This naturalized tie between sovereignty and masculinity serves as a ground for the legitimization of gender violence, both on an interpersonal level and on the level of the state
Citation Formats
F. İbrahimhakkıoğlu, “Thinking the Anachronistic Sovereign With Judith Butler: The Question of Gender in the Global War on Terrorism,” presented at the Critical Theory in the Humanities: Resonances of the Work of Judith Butler, (5 - 07 Nisan 2017), 2017, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: