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Cadernos Pagu

On-line version ISSN 1809-4449

Cad. Pagu  no.51 Campinas  2017  Epub Jan 08, 2018 


The Dual Production of Gender and State: Interconnections, materialities and languages

Adriana Vianna** 

Laura Lowenkron*** 

** Professor of Anthropology at the Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal University at Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

*** Adjunct professor at the Institute of Social Medicine, State University of Rio de Janeiro.


This article discusses the relations of mutual constitution between gender and state. The theoretical and methodological implications of this proposal are explored in dialog with ethnographies in which the theme of violence appears as a privileged heuristic vector for understanding this coproduction.

Key words: Gender; State; Violence


O artigo discute as relações de mútua constituição entre gênero e Estado. As implicações teóricas e metodológicas dessa proposta são exploradas em diálogo com etnografias nas quais a temática da violência comparece como vetor heurístico privilegiado para compreender tal coprodução.

Palavras-Chave: Gênero; Estado; Violência

Introductory Notes: Pursuing the dual destabilization of gender and state

The purpose of this article is to discuss possibilities for understanding the relations between gender and state, considering them not as discrete entities but as a mutually productive dynamic, that is, as this “dual production” that we suggest in our title. We will review certain fertile destabilizations in each one of the poles – state and gender – in order to not reify them and to attempt to understand their limits and frontiers as an integral part of their intelligibilities. We recognize, however, that the social life of each is quite distinct, with political, geopolitical and organizational impacts and scopes of differing concreteness. “State”, in addition to being a concept, is also the term that designates socio-political units, institutionalities and frontiers that shape and effect macropolitical orders and bureaucratic routines that guide all of us daily. “Gender”, in turn, although it can be considered as a term that has a quite notorious political impact and scope in many contexts, and has become a true field of battle in some of them, tends to be perceived, circulated and experienced more as something of a “secondary order”, of an eminently analytical nature (contrary to sex, we may say).1 To discuss how these concepts have been treated in some lines of analysis allows us to better explore their capacities to shift and problematize any eventual naturalizations that remain in them or that are consecrated by them.

What is or is not the state? How does it produce, affect and manufacture relationships, representations and performances of gender, for example? Far from being strictly conceptual questions, they point to important parts of the social processes that compose and materialize the state itself, as conceived at times as a complex institutionality, at others as an entity capable of facing the final instance of social regulation. Similarly, the genderfied dynamics, practices and imaginations that permeate us and social life as a whole do not circulate or exist “outside the state” but in it and through it become viable and understandable. This occurs through a continuous work of production not only of official categories,2 but also of forms of regulation and “framings” (Butler, 2009) that constitute bodies, relations, affections and subjects as (un) desirable and un(in)telligible.

In addition to having the power to determine public obligations, the state in its plurality of institutions, agencies and norms, controls the distribution of material and symbolic resources, permeates the daily life of subjects and makes itself present in various ways in the production of desires related to gender, whether they are of recognition, acceptance or even insurgence. Therefore, we are not speaking only of formal laws, but of a system of values, a form of institutionalization that is nearly impossible to avoid (Fonseca, 1995). This is the source of the enormous attraction to the state, and the tendency to desire of the state’s desire or the interest to become desirable by the state (Butler, 2003a). For this reason, as we intend to demonstrate, it is impossible to think of relationships, performances and imaginations of gender “outside of the state”, in the same way that there are no processes of state (and particularly, of formation of nation-state) that are not permeated by dynamics, grammars and or genderfied devices.

To think of this dual relationship therefore supposes going beyond the scrutiny of the impact of one “dimension” or “sphere” on the other, as when we examine the forms by which the state interferes or conditions gender relations, or even, in an opposite direction, how gender traverses the state institutionality or is present in the formulation or execution of public policies. Without wanting to question the importance of studies that are dedicated to these dynamics, what we want to emphasize is the great difficulty that remains, in general, in analyses focused on the state and or gender to operate with the dual questioning of these structural poles of our form of thinking and representing power relations. If we are able to operate with the state based on non-essentialized or reified perspectives, as a rule it is gender that appears as a secondary element: at times as a dimension of life that remains a bit external to the processes of state, at other times as a variable characteristic of these same processes and never a central element to them. And, in a nearly mirrored form, we can think that the profitable and fertile theoretical and ethnographic destabilizations through which have passed the theories, concepts and perspectives of gender since the middle of the past century, do not always combine with equal efforts in relation to considering the state.

There is, in this way, a type of dual externality, that appears to always be reproduced in the interplay between gender and state,3 as if the direct or spectral invocation of cohesion and neutrality of one was a condition for a possibility for the analytical tensioning focused on the other. Where gender appears as a destabilizing pole, the “state” appears to be called on to occupy – and often occupies – the materialization of the efforts at stabilization and regulation. As the source and locus of classifications, categories and actions of a material and symbolic force, that which we call the state thus encarnates the exemplary antagonist - in socio-analytical terms - of the fluidity, transactionality and situtionality of gender and its correlates. And where there is care and vigilance to not consider the state as an institutional, ideological or ideational unit, this in general does not come to consider that its permanent processes of constitution are always and necessarily sexualized, genderfied and permeated by affects. We thus affirm that to seriously consider the complexity and processuality inherent to the state4 implies understanding it as a web of meanings, possibilities for action and forms of interdiction made from and by gender dynamics.

More than establishing an organized criticism of other analytical efforts or even postulating any supposed “correct form” of analyzing relations between state and gender, by announcing our disturbance with the complex interplay of form and foundation between the two we want to highlight precisely the difficulty of treating them, in particular in our ethnographic endeavors, effectively as coproductions. Thus, following clues found in different works that help us to simultaneously accumulate danger signs related to eventual essentializations and artificial separations, but also inspirations raised by analytical subtleties, ethnographic densities or forms of framing and unframing of gender and state, we hope to reach a new set of productive questionings about this dual production.

In the sections that follow, we discuss how perspectives of gender in and of the state have been established in part of the feminist academic debate; we point to some conceptual presumptions that are important to use to go deeper into the relations between gender and state in theoretical terms; and finally seek to show to what degree certain ethnographic studies are capable of illuminating the interlinkings between bodies, genders, affects, state and nation and therefore, contribute to reflecting on this dual production that we are proposing. Without losing sight of positivity (in the Foucaultian sense) present in this process, marked by the incitation to relations, desires and affects that must be persecuted and stimulated, we postulate that violence, by intensifying the discursive productions about “good” sex, “good” gender and “good” state, is presented as a heuristically privileged theme for reflecting on this simultaneously dramatic and quotidian coproduction.

Gender in/of the state in feminist academic debates

The first analytical connections established between state and gender emerged in feminist academic debates in the late 1980s, and since then, the manner of theorizing the relations between these two terms has undergone constant questionings and conceptual reformulations. This is also, and not by chance, the period in which the concept of gender came to be disseminated as a resource for analytically complexifying the understanding of power relations (Piscitelli, 2002; Scott, 1988). To avoid the risk of affirming that part of our arguments, criticisms and analytical concerns have an absolute unprecedented character, we intend to review some feminist formulations about gender in and of the state developed in recent decades in the Anglo-Saxon academic context. This perspective is certainly marked by a condition of intragender inequality and asymmetry that deserves to be seen in greater detail than we can offer at this time.

In more general lines, we can emphasize the strict link, in historic terms, between the concerns for the theme of the “state” and feminist lines or trends that are strongly marked by certain racial and geopolitical conditions – that is, those that are “central”, “Western”, and “white”. To do so, some factors can be identified. Firstly, it should be highlighted that the very way that the state presents itself or fails to present itself as a valid referent for reflecting on gender dynamics in this moment, has highlighted racial issues – or failed to do so. The way that state arenas and practices can be considered as a relevant focus of conflict for feminist movements immensely differed widely as a function of the centrality or not of the dimensions of race and class, allowing an understanding of why these efforts are distributed so unequally among feminist lines of thinking (Mohanty, 2003; Davis, 2016). Moreover, for the same reason, it was these feminisms that most penetrated state institutionality and were thus concerned with more directly proposing, formulating or criticizing a “feminist theory of state” (Mackinnon, 1989).

In historic terms, the state, as a category, came to be an object of attention, reflection and conflict of feminist thinkers in a context of intensification of involvement of women and of feminism itself with institutional and governmental apparatuses (as users of public services, voters, public employees, and less frequently, government officials).5 Through different routes, some of the first feminist reflections on the state sought to explain how it participated in the oppression of women, assuming, however, conflicting positions about how the state could be modified to achieve the feminist objective of guaranteeing gender equity (Code, 2000), not to mention the central disagreements about the place of the state itself in the oppressive dynamics that co-productively involve gender, race and nationality (Mohanty, 2003).

Evidently, feminist politics focused on the state and the feminist debates about these policies are not so recent, dating to the nineteenth century and the campaign for feminine suffrage and for protective labor legislation (Brown, 2006), and the struggle of the “abolitionist” feminists (white, European and middle class) against the state regulation of prostitution (Carrara, 1996) and in support of the legal prohibition of “white slave trafficking” (Pereira, 2005). Meanwhile, in the twentieth century, the list of feminist demands on the state expanded through campaigns for equal opportunities, pay equity, reproductive rights, reforms in laws concerning rape, abuse, marriage, harassment, labor legislation concerning maternity, the state regulation of pornography, new reproductive technologies, etc.

Since the 1970s, the so-called second wave of the feminist movement stimulated in various parts of the world the formulation and institutionalization of policies to fight inequalities between men and women, such as laws against different forms of discrimination and gender violence.6 Feminists frequently participated in the development and management of these public policies and legal reforms, and have been increasingly incorporated as administrators in the state political and administrative apparatus (Watson, 1990). Moreover, a growing number of women, in various countries, became dependent on the state for survival. That is, “the state acquired a historic prominence – political, economic, social and cultural – in the lives of millions of women” (Brown, 2006:188).

Marxist-feminist theory was the first to focus on, or better, against the state (or a certain model of state). For the representatives of this theoretical line, the capitalist state is necessarily seen with distrust, and is understood as a tool of domination and oppression that contributes to guaranteeing the interests and preserving the privileges of the dominant classes. Nevertheless, in this approach, reductionist and functionalist arguments used to explain the persistence of sexual divisions of labor and of the form of the patriarchal family wind up subsuming gender relations to the “needs of capital” (Watson, 1990:6).

A second theoretical line is represented by liberal feminists, who see the state as a neutral arbiter, that can be influenced or captured by different interest groups. For liberal thinkers, there is nothing inherently sexist, patriarchal or phallocentric in the liberal democratic state (Code, 2000). Although the state and political institutions are recognized as being historically dominated by men and or by male interests, they count on the possibility of transforming this reality by means of antidiscriminatory laws, affirmative policies and, no less important, greater female (and feminist) participation and representation in key sectors of the political and bureaucratic apparatus.

A third line, which is particularly influential and important for the proposals of reflection that we intend to conduct here, is the radical feminist line, which proposes theorizing the state as being male and or patriarchal – that is, as being genderfied and or constituted by gender relations. On one hand, this line is opposed to the first two lines because it defends the need for formulating a specifically feminist theoretical approach (instead of simply reproducing a Marxist or liberal theory) of the state. On the other, like the Marxists, radical feminists are skeptical about the possibility of transforming unequal relations with policies focused on the current model of the state, because the laws, institutions and forms of government of this model necessarily incorporate the interests of dominant groups in capitalist and patriarchal societies.

U.S. legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon7 was one of the pioneer and leading representatives of this third line. In her book Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989), MacKinnon affirmed that feminism had a theory of power, but lacked a specific theory of its state form. To fill in this gap or “failure to consider gender as a determinant of state behavior” (MacKinnon, 1989:170), suggested that the important issue for a feminist theory of state would be: “what is the state, from women’s point of view?” (MacKinnon, 1989:161). She responded: “the state is male in the feminist sense: the law sees and treats women the way men see and treat women” (MacKinnon, 1989:161-162) or, in other words, “the state, through law, institutionalizes male power over women through institutionalizing the male point of view in law” (MacKinnon, 1989:169). 8

The idea that the state is male appears to have become particularly popular among feminist scholars since then. But it was only based on the criticisms of the logic of male protection (Young, 2003), frequently incorporated by “state feminism”, that some more nuanced readings appeared about the different modalities of masculinity associated to the state and or to the powers exercised by its different agents and institutions. These critics indicate, as we see, the possibility that these policies reiterate, more than transform, the symbolic and material conditions that guarantee female subordination.

In the 1990s, the political philosopher Wendy Brown (2006) affirmed that until that time there was no broad analysis about male powers of the state. To offer this analysis, in order to question the feminist policies focused on the demand for state protection, is precisely the objective of her essay Finding the man in the State.9 According to Brown, the elements of the state identifiable as male correspond not to some property found in men, but to conventions of power and privilege constitutive of gender within an order of male domination. In other words, “the masculinism of the state refers to those features of the state that signify, enact, sustain, and represent masculine power as a form of dominance.” (Wendy Brown, 2006:188).

Brown affirms that the state can be male without intentionally or openly pursuing “interests” of men, precisely because the multiple dimensions of masculinity, socially and historically constructed, shape the multiple modes of power circulating through the domain called state. Seeking to decipher the different socially male dimensions of the state, she is opposed to a reified approach, recalling that the state is not an entity or unity, and therefore, does not only employ a single modality of political power.

While all state power is marked by gender, the same aspects of masculinism do not appear in each modality of state power. Thus, a feminist theory of the state requires simultaneously articulating, deconstructing, and relating the multiple strands of power composing both masculinity and the state. The fact that neither state power nor male domination are unitary or systematic, means that a feminist theory of state will be less a linear argument than the mapping of an intricate grid of overlapping and conflicting strategies, technologies, and discourses of power (Brown, 2006:193).

Brown then analyzes, four modalities or dimensions of contemporary U.S. state power: the legal or liberal dimension, which is central to the theories of radical feminists such as Catharine MacKinnon and Carole Pateman about the masculinity of the state; the capitalist, which was broadly conceptualized by Marxist-feminists; the prerogative, characterized by a legitimate monopoly of violence and classically conceptualized by Maquiavel and Hobbes; and the bureaucratic dimension, theorized by Weber and in a certain sense, by Foucault, which is expressed in concrete institutions and is characterized by attributes or dimensions considered socially as masculine, such as hierarchy, abstract rationality, bureaucratic proceduralism and the cult to technical knowledge. As Brown argues, each of these modalities carries distinct characteristics of masculinity of the state.10

Based on this analysis, she suggests that “while the state is neither hegemonic nor monolithic, it mediates or deploys almost all the powers shaping women’s lives (...), powers wielded in previous epochs directly by men” (Brown, 2006:202). Brown affirms that the subordination of women is the broad effect of forms of control that both state power as well as male domination engender. Based on this idea that there is an essential homology between the characteristics of state power and male domination (even if both are considered as internally constituted by modalities and technologies of heterogeneous, dispersed, articulated and conflicting power) that she considers that the state is a problematic tool or arena for the political change desired by feminism.

For Brown, the growing relationship between American women and state institutions is producing increasingly statized, regulated, disciplined, subjects and exchanging dependence in relation to individual men with institutionalized processes of male domination - which, because of their abstract, disincorporated nature and ostensive neutrality - help to disguise this command. In the final instance, the state is understood by Brown as an important vehicle of male domination in late modernity, to the degree to which it substitutes many of the forms of domination previously performed by individual men, without given up the socially male – and white we must add – character of the forms of power exercised by state agents and institutions on the life of women through policies of protection or regulation.

The male dimension of the policies of state protection is also reflected on by Young (2003), who focused on the model of the security state that gained force in the United States during the Bush government after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. According to Young, this logic contrasts with the model of aggressive, egoistic and voluntarily dominating masculinity that is widely assumed by feminist theory. She calls attention to the importance of considering another image of masculinity that is apparently more benign, associated to ideas of chivalry: “in one relation the hierarquical power is obvious and in the other is more masked by virtue and love” (Young, 2003:6).

The role of this courageous, responsible and virtuous man is that of protector. Female subordination, in this logic, is not based on the submission to an authoritarian and violent man, but on the joy and gratitude of feeling protected by a virile man willing to face the dangers of the world to guarantee the safety of his family. In this patriarchal logic, the male role of protector guarantees him a position of superiority and places the protected, paradigmatically women and children in a position of subordination, dependence and obedience. According to Young, to the degree that the citizens of a democratic state permit their leaders to adopt this role, they come to occupy a subordinated status, as that of women and children in a patriarchal domestic unit. Young suggests that Hobbes is the great theorist of authoritarian political power founded on the supposed need and desire for protection. We will return to this theme later in the article, from a different perspective developed by anthropologist Veena Das (2007 & 2008), who highlights the fact that the Hobbesian myth of the social contract always hides the dimension of the sexual contract that is fundamental to it.

Recalling that power does not always act in a repressive manner, Young approximates the logic of male protection to what Foucault describes as pastoral power, exercised by priests over their parish and by extension, by caregivers over those for whom they care. She notes that “this power often appears gentle and benevolent both to its wielders and to those under its sway, but it is no less powerful for that reason” (Young, 2003:6). Nevertheless, the significance and emotional appeal of the role of the protector explains why, not by chance, he is frequently called on by the security state to justify external war and the expectation of obedience and loyalty of its citizens.

As can be noted, in Young’s analysis, the male logic of protection is not strictly linked to subordination of women, but is used as a model to understand how the state’s relationship with its citizens (men or women) and outside enemies is permeated by gender dynamics. It is essential to note here, once again, that the depth of the unequal distribution of the vectors of protection and aggression is not comprehensible if we do not consider race, something not emphasized by authors who centralize the debate on gender and state. As Angela Davis (2016) shows upon criticizing the “myth of the black rapist” promoted or reinforced by (white) feminist anti-rape policies, the division between violating and aggressive masculinity, on one hand and the protector on the other, is permeated by attributes of race. In a similar sense, Spivak invokes the image of “white men saving brown women from brown men” (Spivak, 2014:119), calling attention to the various processes of racialization of gender in the salvationist policies defined as colonial.

This concern is indicated by Young upon remembering the Bush administration’s strategic appropriation of the rhetoric of women’s rights made during the Afghanistan war. As Young observed, the discourses and practices of U.S. and European feminists in relation to so-called “Third World women” should be critically considered, to not contribute to strengthening the colonial logic.11 Moreover, as she argued, it is important to note that the “protector-protected relation is no more egalitarian, however, when between women than between men and women” (Young, 2003:20).

Finally, Young recalls that feminist theories of care and social well-being suggest that the rights and dignity of individuals should not be reduced only because they require help and support to conduct their projects. Rejecting the presumption that is the basis for the notion of the self-sufficient citizen, that the need for social support or care is more exceptional than normal, these thinkers suggest that the well-being of all people can be expanded through care and support for others. And, in modern societies, some of this care and support should be organized and guaranteed by state institutions.12

Feminists involved in the state bureaucracy and who defend affirmative, anti-discriminatory policies and equal opportunities were evidently hostile to demands that the state is inherently male or patriarchal. For this reason, Eisenstein (1985apudAllen, 1990:29) suggested that feminism must “deglobalize” its concepts. Nevertheless, as noted by Judith Allen (1990), it is clear that what is seen as encompassing by Eisenstein is the adjective “masculine” and not the highly abstract noun “state”. Thus, “at the end of the all this feminist discussion, the imported category ‘the state’ remains intact, unviolated by anything more than the odd adjective ‘male’” (Allen, 1990:29). For Allen, it was the category of “state” that must be “deglobalized”.

Allen’s essay Does feminism need a theory of state? (1990) marked an interesting point of inflection in these debates, by questioning the then recent feminist efforts to construct a theory of state. According to Allen, the state is not a native category of feminist theories, but an imported, very abstract term, which is unitary and lacking the specificity needed to have any usefulness for feminist analyses and objectives. Allen noted that the attempts to adapt the category “state” for feminist purposes by adding adjectives (such as “patriarchal” or “masculine”) do not consider the problematic character of the term. Thus, according to Allen, feminism should not be criticized for not developing a distinct theory of state, as MacKinnon (1989) suggested. Instead, the choice of other priorities for the theoretical feminist agendas seems reasonable and deserves to be taken seriously. In this sense, Allen’s response to the question that entitles her essay about the need for a theory of state for feminism is clearly negative.

Moreover, as Sophie indicates in the introduction to the Australian collection Playing the State (1990), in which Allen’s essay was published: “feminist theories of the state, be they liberal radical or Marxist, tend also to assume a unity of interests between men, between sections of capital, and even between women” (Watson, 1990:7). The state, is thus seen as reinforcing, supporting or acting in favor of these interests, without considering that the interests of capital, of men or of women are not necessarily unified and that the state is an arena in which these interests are actively constructed, more than given.

Since then, feminist academic work tends to adopt a more fragmented, post-structural approach to political analysis, and to recognize the complexity and contradictory nature of state activity, so that the state can no longer be reduced to a coherent unit or to an oppressive tool and instrument of control (Lilburn, 2000). In this sense, Judith Allen’s provocation, instead of inhibiting feminist production about the theme, opened space for new approaches that could complexify this debate. Distant in time and in space from the contexts that animate the U.S. and Australian authors mentioned in this incomplete review of feminist theoretical production about the issue, this article also intends to contribute in this direction, by defending the idea of a dual production of gender and state and propose some theoretical and ethnographic routes for understanding this process of mutual constitution.

Other supports for rethinking relations between gender and state

The brief presentation that we sought to make of certain points of the feminist debates about the relations between state and gender, although quite partial, makes clear the conceptual and political fertility of these debates. Differences concerning the nature of each of these terms are in play within this discussion, as are disputes about their signification, something that must be understood as being an inherent and not external part, both of the processes of the state, as well as of gender relations. In this sense, the effect of the relative freezing of the categories in many of these analyses seems to us to be especially significant, as well as the quite frequent presumption that male domination is the only possible form of articulation between gender and power. By doing so, they wind up, from our perspective, ignoring or underestimating the possibility of forms of exercise of power culturally imagined as being incarnated by state agents and agencies, as those centered on certain concepts of care or that are inserted in the “sweet government of tutelage” (Vianna, 2014a), shaped exemplarily in the image of the nanny or governess that Paine presents in her analysis (1977).

The condensing force of male domination for thinking of state representations and institutions can only be presented more emphatically for scrutiny to the degree that the understanding and analytical work devoted to the state are also permanently questioned. This involves a confluence of criticisms raised in various fields - including the feminist debates that we have just reviewed – of the non-cohesion and homogeneity of the state, questioning the places of gender in this dynamic. The anthropological review has an important role to perform, although not an exclusive one, considering, as Sharma and Gupta indicate, that

Anthropology’s focus on particular branches and levels of state institutions enables a disaggre- gated view of ‘‘the state’’ that shows the multilayered, pluri-centered, and fluid nature of this ensemble that congeals different contradictions (Sharma; Gupta, 2006:10).

In these terms, describing the ways by which the state is continuously produced implies traversing registers of various orders, which are present in acts based on bureaucratic, institutional and interactional quotidians, that can be characterized by what Philip Abrams called the state-system (Abrams, 1988), but also never discard the dimension of that which Abrams called the state-idea. A type of instituting illusion of the state, or a mask that hides in an exemplary way its ideational nature, this idea should not be abandoned in our ethnographic scrutiny, but to the contrary, have its strength, vigor and demiurgic capacity always considered. As Timothy Mitchell (1999) emphasized, in dialog with the formulations of Abrams, the state, as a cultural and ideological construct,

occurs not merely as a subjective belief, but as a representation reproduced in visible everyday forms, such as the language of legal practice, the architec- ture of public buildings, the wearing of mili- tary uniforms, or the marking and policing of frontiers. The ideological forms of the state are an empirical phenomenon (Mitchell, 1999:81).

Living material of the state and state producing processes, the idea of state - far from being an immaterial element - should be considered in its embodiment, its moral qualifications, its capacity to shape, limit and produce desires and horizons of possibility. In this sense, it should be perceived as doted and permeated by attributes, representations and practices of gender. Instead of defining a priori a fixed gender that would characterize the state, therefore, we consider that both, gender and state, are produced through action, and should be understood and grasped from (and as) their contextually situated performative effects, performances and materialities.

And given that materiality and performativity cannot be totally dissected from each other, or one placed before the other, as Butler warns in Bodies tha matter [1993] (2002), and as fertile socio-anthropological literature has also been indicating in the case of the state (Abrams, 1988; Mitchell, 1999; Sharma & Gupta, 2006; Souza Lima, 2002, 2013; Teixeira & Souza Lima, 2010), it is up to us to consider in what terms the performative relations materialized in one, influence and cartograph the possibilities of the other. Or, more directly: how does a state perform that is doted with good male attributes – virile, courageous, protective – and on which mechanisms of government, scenography, administrative practices and bureaucratized relations is it made and is it continually based? Or also, how do quite exemplary administrative materializations, such as documents, certificates and visual and physical reviews conducted at countless official checkpoints (Jeganhathan, 2004; Padovani, 2015) revise, shape, face and fetishize relations, expressions and practices of gender? How do these multiple operations - whether they are spectacularized or nearly invisible in their dimension of routine action and of infinitesimal pedagogies - not only continually shape the contours and possibilities of state and gender, but above all the differences, inequalities and violent hierarchies that distinguish “good” gender from others? Or even, how the possibilities of the “good” state are inscribed in bodies, relations and imaginations, precisely by its capacity to materialize in the forms of gestating, directing and administrating populations, goods and territories (Souza Lima, 2002) arranged and understood through genderfied grammars and devices?

We are thus far from making any attempt at unification or extraction of an essential substrate, whether in relation to gender or to the state, but are searching for that which Souza Lima identified as the processes of “objectivation and subjectivation that operate by constructing and deconstructing realities in the plane of daily life” and that would be an inherent part of producing state - and, we also affirm of producing gender.13 In this sense, it is essential to note that the perception of the contradiction, polysemy and situational plurality of the state is not an exclusive attribute of researchers, but of all social actors in their concrete lives. The ways by which these actors conceptualize, evoke, repudiate and silence the state or statizing instances, representations and practices tell us much about the state itself – whether in its dimension of idea or of system – as a space of ideological, existential and political dispute. We thus travel through territory that is simultaneously one of dispute, distrust and struggle for the sedimentation of administrative images and forms as better, more “natural”, more legitimate or true. We must thus pay special attention to the ways by which actors and agencies produce and position themselves in this process. The dispute for the implementation of public policies, the production of charges, the polysemic clamor for “rights”14 (Vianna, 2013), whether as laws or as language of (in)justice and of (in)equality, as well as the administrative operations of recognition or non-recognition of bodies, gender, relations and affects, are part of this ground offering us fertile material for understanding the genderification of the state and or of the statizations of gender.

For this discussion to assume greater density, an effect of materiality or, if we prefer, embodiment, we now pursue some key points of coproduction of gender and state based on fragments of different works, all marked by great ethnographic investment, whether realized by ourselves or by other researchers that inspire us in these (and other) questions. Our intent is to both explain the deep relationality between the interplay of genderification of state and statization of gender, and to explore the complex interlacings between bodies, territories, sex, violence, affects and genders, state and nation. Taking violence as a privileged heuristic vector for understanding these tessituras, we reveal, in particular, how relations, grammars and asymmetries of gender (frequently articulated to a sexualization of nationality) are central to the dynamics of producing state and, with special strength, in the delimitation of frontiers between bodies and territories, which is so necessary in the fabrication of the “imagined community” (Anderson, 2006) of the nation-state.

In all the works analyzed, it is not possible to ignore conditions, markers, experiences and classification that also compose gender and state in their concretude and depth, such as race, color, class, ethnicity, nationality, affect and corporality. If in this article we are not giving them their due importance, it is because of a simultaneous textual limitation and the need to emphasize the connections between gender and state. However, as we hope that the discussion that follows will make more clear, in the concrete webs of life it is not possible to make an effective division of these marks or social categories of differentiation, which are always mutually constituted.15

Of masculinities and femininities in processes of state

By considering the state as an arena and field of disputes of different types, as we have indicated throughout this article, we are not only seeking to remain attentive to their processual and heterogeneous natures, but to highlight the productive capacity present in the specific forms of evoking the state and its correlates or metonymies. The “state that should do its job”; the “government official who doesn’t work”; the “system that kills”; the “problem that is not for the police, but the state” (Ferreira, 2015); the “country that doesn’t move forward”, and others, are speech acts that are inscribed in the webs of continuous production of subjects, political projects, moral horizons and elaboration of experiences.

Gender, in turn, conceived at times as a categorical distinction (Strathern, 2006), at times as technology (Lauretis, 1994) or even, as a performative effect, materiality and form of regulation (Butler, 2003b; 2002; 2004) that structures and operates compositions about the correct forms of being in the world, of being in relation to others and of manufacturing or (un)doing, forms of life, also offers itself to the social actors as a language or grammar that orders, qualifies and gives concretude to conflictive and disturbing processes that, in one way or another, include the “state” as a fundamental character. Thinking of gender as an idiom based on which differences of power and or prestige are ordered (Moore, 2000:34) and constitute and qualify political subjects and government practices, in this part of the article we articulate certain aspects of the feminist theoretical discussions previously presented as fragments of our own ethnographies, placed in dialog with other anthropological works.

By conferring ethnographic density and materiality to certain conceptual proposals, our goal is to contribute not only to illuminating some central points of the debate triggered by the radical feminist around the genderification of the state, but to also complexify it. We seek to show, specifically, how gender and state have been shaped in always mutual although heterogeneous manners. After all, as Brown well affirmed (2006) the idea of state and the forms of power it exercises and engenders, even if nearly always imagined as masculine, are articulated to distinct versions or attributes of gender, thus contributing to the conformation of different constructs of masculinity - and we can add, femininity. Also recognizing the importance of “deglobalizing” the main concepts that permeate these debates – which requires, as Allen (1990) suggests, understanding the dispersed character not only of the adjective “male” but also of the highly abstract noun “state”, we present here ethnographic fragments that reveal the challenges and productivity of submitting gender and state, as semantic categories or fields, to the same analytical operations.

The process of counterpoint, composition and shifting between categories used to qualify political subjects – in this case, the “mothers of victims” - and actions of state – murder and impunity for the deaths of children – was conceptualized by Adriana Vianna (2014b) in terms of the relationship between zones of meaning that cannot, in the context she analyzed, be thought of in a univocal or separated form.16 These zones, formed around the semantic fields of “violence”, “state” and “gender/kinship”, compose not only different terms, such as kill/killed, government, police, mother, child, uterus, and many others, but have as a primordial characteristic always being in movement and relation. They are made concrete through “word-acts” that operate strategic distinctions between victims of different violences, for example, and between the specific violences and their direct relationship with the state. Enunciated in specific contexts, such as public acts, court hearings or different spaces for talking about the “cases”, the word-acts pronounced and circulated by the “victim’s family members” perform and reconfigure subjects, scenes, moralities, relations and political horizons of action.

In this ethnographic context, the state is evoked as an active social character, as the “state that kills our children”, a sentence that condenses different actions and actors that, in different moments, are dissected in their responsibilities: it is the police that shot; the police as a whole in their practices of war and their institutional racism; the various police officers and judicial agents that interfere in the criminal and legal investigations; the legal investigators that issue false or inconclusive reports. But it is also the state that disrespects the pain of the family members by treating them as relatives of “bandits” and who, with the constant delays and judicial maneuvers, prevent “justice from being done”.17 The intrigue of political and moral accusations that allows denouncing the close correlation between violence and state, and moreover, qualify it as violence aimed at the black population living in the favelas, as part, therefore, of the production of a certain type of state, can only be produced in close connection with the grammar of gender that is incorporated in the dyad mother-child. It is the “mothers” who are the political, moral and affective subjects who can counter the “state that kills”, in a political battle that is completely permeated by gender representations and relations.

The scene – or word-acts – that best expresses this formulation is perhaps that which was captured during a funeral and expressed by the mother of a man killed by the police in an incursion into a favela in Rio de Janeiro: “while the state is sitting down, eating and drinking the good and the best, we are here burying one more mother” (Vianna; Farias, 2011:92). The statement, from another “victim’s mother” to the researchers at a time of collective mourning, raised what they call the anthropomorphized figure of the state, this being that is simultaneously carnalized and moralized in its being; sitting, eating and drinking while one more funeral is being held. Gender - presented here as a grammar, relation and accusation - can be grasped as something that migrates and circulates between corporalities placed in antagonism and confrontation to mothers and the state. In the terms of the authors,

The state here is evoked in its complete dimension of idea (...), that is, as an entity that has concretude not only in its institutional forms, in its dimension of administration and governmentality, but as a symbolic entity that permeates and orders the daily life of people: those who do, who should do, who can realize or choose not to realize. (…) It highlights the pungent form that this idea-entity “the state” is, in the first place, masculine, in the same way that on the other hand they are eminently female figures: buried mothers, mothers who bury (Vianna; Farias, 2011:93).

The masculinization of the state in this case, far from being taken as an a priori attribute, must be understood as a discursive action only comprehensible by the simultaneous production of a female figure that faces it and whose final meaning is found in the deep relationality of maternity. The apparition of this figure in the political scene can be taken in various manners. Quite directly, it can be seen as an effect of the very perverse dynamics of management of populations and territories that are focused on the violent control over peripheral bodies, with a special focus on young black men, submitted to routines of murder, incarceration and various forms of humiliation.18 But it can also be understood as part of the movement and reconfiguration of a series of images, experiences and subjectivations that are very present among women – in particular black women – residents of areas of favelas or peripheries in Rio de Janeiro, strongly permeated by the value of care and by the sensations of fear and dangers in relation to what can happen to children, considered primordially in the masculine, who are always probable targets of violent actions coming from distinct sides. In this sense, it is notable that the male appears both in the pole of protection and in the pole of threat, while the female vector is in a certain way that which articulates them, but which can also be subsumed to them. The triad that is sketched here involves state (male-mother-çhild, causing other females to disappear that are not the maternal, as well as other filiations that are not male.19 These symbolic markings perhaps can be best thought of if we consider the occlusion of the sexual contract as formulated by Veena Das (2007; 2008), which we have mentioned here.

By postulating that the myth of the social contract, which is so important to the representations of the modern nation state, involve a set of not always clear postulations about the rights and obligations related both to dying and killing, and to domesticity and reproduction, Das calls attention to the centrality of gender in the dynamics of national citizenships.20 The image and the value of war as a defense mechanism not of any state, but of the nation-sate, which is strongly tributary of the imaginations of a community that apparently provides it substrate and legitimacy,21 is highly mixed with representations about protection of the domestic world – commonly designated, in this political-mythological tradition, as female – and to the control of legitimate reproduction. Individual, family and national bodies are combined and projected upon each other, we can say, having in various forms of war a mechanism for ordering and purification of the risks of contamination by the undesired combination.

As Das demonstrates in his work with the women who survive the ethnic and national abductions and “devolutions” that took place during the partition and creation of the Indian and Pakistani nation states, the counting, investigations, registers and exchanges of women performed a central role in the production of the nationalities at stake. Each woman, when abducted – or considered to be – was a challenge, and at the same time, a possibility for confection of national honor, whose male substrate is undeniable here. For this reason, each woman survivor was also a potential sign of dishonor and pollution, and in her “return” was forced to deal with various types of narratives – poetic, anecdotal, etc. – about other women, mythic and exemplary, who preferred to kill themselves to being violated or who were killed by their relatives to not bring dishonor to their families (and to the nation).

The purifying, warrior, and simultaneously bureaucratic masculinity, which is presented in Das’ work, can, with a certain liberty, be approximated to that which we mentioned earlier, of the state complex formed by police, members of the judiciary and many others who act in the connective chain of the deaths of black favela youths as part of a “war”, of “pacifying” entrances and administrations, amid which the “confrontations” would be inevitable. As took place in other contexts in which the idea of a “security state” gained prominence – like that analyzed by Young (2003), the USA after the terrorist attacks of 11/09 – the rhetoric of internal protection legitimates the war against external enemies, marking borders between bodies in danger and dangerous, killable or “grievable lifes” (Butler, 2009). By revolting against this logic, affirming precisely the illegitimacy of these deaths, as well as politically triggering the idiom of reproduction and care to give the deaths a political life, the “mothers of the victims” also seek to dispute and alter combinations between war, reproduction, protection and domesticity that continue to be relevant in producing state (in particularly the nation-state). It is not by chance that the image of the mothers as a “factory of criminals”, that had been produced in the statement of a state government official, is never forgotten in the public acts. Locating in their reproductive bodies the place of moral, political and national undesirability, this government official brutally made explicit the connections, that, inversely, they sought to value. In these terms, as Vianna and Farias (2011) discuss, the operations of gender posted here also necessarily concern a political conflict over the state.

It is thus possible to note, that the relations around masculinities of the state22 are not established in only one way or with a divisor. Without ignoring the importance of perceiving the no less dominating and oppressive character of the state protection (Brown, 2006; Young, 2003), we argue that, in practice, the aggressive and brutal protective masculinities, almost never appear, as in the theoretical models, in an isolated manner, but are articulated in the same political subjects and practices of government. In this way, the separation between the different aspects of masculinity, and between female and male attributes that are morally (de)valued, can only be understood as part of the effects of the political and symbolic disputes, accusations and other processes of delimitation of social borders that mutually permeate and constitute gender and state.

Moreover, as we suggest, the state administrative and political practices articulated to idiom or semantic field of tutelage are characterized and conceived as essentially male by the social actors. Distancing from feminist readings that only consider the male/patriarchal dimension of state protection, Laura Lowenkron, in her ethnography about the administration of pedophilia as a “political cause” and “police matter” in Brazil, developed a very specific reading of the pairing gestate and administrate proposed by Souza Lima (2002) to describe nuances in the exercise of tutelary power,23 seeking to explore the genderfied dimension of this binomial (Lowenkron, 2015:416-420; 2016).

The term gestate, understood as the female pole of this binomial, points to the well-intentioned, constitutive and pedagogic character attributed to maternal gestation (Lugones, 2012:211), while administrate signals the daily control of a management that is presented in a male form of the “tutor of collectives, controller of spaces and maintainer of the unequals in their niches” (Souza Lima, 2002:16). In this sense, the author highlights that the care and protection – and we can also add the wars and battles justified in their name – are exercised based on technologies of government that are at times culturally imagined as female, and at times as male.

Thus, the gender of the “anti-pedophile crusade”, materialized in her analysis through an ethnography of a congressional investigative commission on pedophilia and of investigations of crimes of child pornography by the federal police, was defined contextually by the author as masculine. Various elements can be highlighted in this characterization, such as the composition and aggressive style of the commission, formed predominantly by men and marked by a predatory and prosecutorial language, and the image of the Federal Police, a state entity characterized by masculinized attributes, symbols and practices. Moreover, the male dimension of this crusade appears in a special manner in the gender markings that define and permeate its warrior strategies of confrontation: a war against the enemy, a battle among men (given that the pedophile, as the author notes, is also a male figure), the effect of which is to produce a separation between “good men” and dehumanized monsters.

By comparing this “crusade” with the agendas of “intrafamiliar sexual abuse” and of “sexual exploitation of children and adolescents”, both influenced by feminist criticism of male domination, Lowenkron recognizes that they are permeated by a female and feminist aura, symbolized as a “war of women against men” - or of the female who protects against the male who attacks. The “anti-pedophile crusade” deviates the political focus from the feminist criticism of the social structure and family hierarchy to the threat of “perversions”. The concern for an internal enemy who attacks within the family (the “father”, the “step-father”, the “husband”), is redirected to a fear of a dangerous other that comes from outside. In this way, the “anti-pedophile crusade” guarantees that the male reappears, divided between the monstrous character of the “abuser”, “predator” or “pedophile” and the benign image of the “good men” or the heroic figure of the “police man” who defends the “child” the “family” and “society” from outside threats. In this sense, gender and state, once again, can only be constituted in a relational manner, that is, based on a contrast between models of masculinity (protective and heroic x predator and monstrous)24 or of the opposition between policies culturally imagined as feminine (or feminist) and those conceived as masculine, which are materialized and lead to other distinctions related to languages and to practices mobilized to gestate and administer sexual violence against children.

As can be noted, in the studies that we have mentioned, violence, which is always genderfied in the language (Lauretis, 1997), is presented as an important vector of genderfication of state, distributed among representations, acts and practices focused on the importance of conquering, submitting and combatting, but also on protecting, restoring and steering. The transpositions of attributes between individualized bodies – the abducted woman, that pedophile – and collectivized representations – the nation, the family – cannot also ignore the production of acts that influence the ways by which transpositions should take place or should be avoided. In this sense, the qualification of any of these acts as violent (rape, pedophilia, family abuse, summary execution) do not fail to be part of a cognitive and political work of distinction among actors, motivations, legitimacies and illegitimacies. The struggle for this qualification unfolds in various political arenas, involving and producing actors such as social movements, agents of state administration and moral characters, among others, at the same time that it constitutes these same arenas by configuring the legitimate spaces for the production of causes, circulation of arguments and consecration of forms of intervention.

We can thus think that violence as a zone of signification (Vianna, 2014b) performs a fundamental role in the relations of coproduction between gender and state, providing a point of articulation of special value for designating the correct or incorrect forms in which these relations take place, as well as distinguishing the legitimacy of people, affects, governments and administrations. We do not want to say that violence is the only vector, or that it can be considered separately from the other vectors, such as race, class or territory, but in the next section we would like to explore its heuristic and political scope a bit more, for the dual production of gender and state, once again using ethnographic works that appear to us to be especially capable of illuminating this relationship.

Violence, sex and affect in encounters between gender and state

Rape in war, ethnic violence, dishonor, abduction, degeneration, crime, perversion, miscegenation, whitening, sexual trafficking, sexual violence: these are only some of the many categorizations and classifications that we can list as composing part of the semantic fields that create deep links between gender and state. If, as Das reminds us well, the concept of violence is extremely unstable and if it is precisely in this instability that resides its potential to making and to unmake social worlds (Das, 2008:284), far from seeking to domesticate it in precise definitions, it is up to us to pursue its variations and actionings as especially profitable routes for understanding the processes of gender and state. After all, to produce and use classifications such as those we listed above implies various social projects of framing of people, relations and contexts that necessarily involve and manufacture truths of and about gender and state.

The ethnic, racial and national dimensions perform very unique roles in this equation, both in terms of contextual specificities that must be considered in each socio-historic situation, as well as the implications peculiar to the formats of the state involved – if it is a nation state, or empire for example. To begin the argument that we intend to explore in this section we will consider contexts in which the conceptualization or the silencing around the violences appears to be directly implicated in the dramatic moments that affect the specific format of the nation-state: wars, post-war diasporas; or contexts of profound alteration of political regime. Moments, therefore, in which the themes of sexual violence, of ethnic or national honor, of reproduction indviduallly or collectively undesired and of possible forms of speaking, remembering or silencing about what was seen or experienced have tremendous weight.

In a text about the “rape camps” during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, Andréa Peres (2011) indicated, among other considerations, the close connections between ethnicity, territory and rape in that context, highlighting how much the female bodies can be taken as ethnic territories, with more rapes occurring exactly in the contexts in which there was a great effort at homogenization of territories. If this, on one hand, reinforces discussions similar to those already conducted in other scenarios about the semiotic role of the violation of female bodies in wars and conflicts of an ethnic-national character, on the other, as the author indicates well, it obscures important dimensions of reflection about the agency of the women25 or even about the direct and irreducible association between rapes and adult female bodies in reproductive age, ignoring the rapes on male bodies, children, the elderly, etc. Also questioning the definition of rape as an arm of extermination or genocide, the author calls attention to the disjunction between the possible objectives of the perpetrators – who operate with this horizon of extermination or genocide, even through reproductive means, given that children from these rapes would not be considered to belong to the same ethnic or national community of the mothers – and of the women themselves or their families. Contrary to what is promoted by the genocidal vision, these women were not necessarily pushed out of their family networks, although there is extreme silence in relation to what had happened to the children who are the fruit of the rapes. In a way somewhat similar to what was presented by Das (1995; 2007; 2008) in relation to the “abductions” and “devolutions” of Hindu and Muslim women during the Partition, various strategies were used by the women and by their networks of affection to accommodate and process the damage of war and those that extend beyond it among the survivors.

The scope of the violent act therefore, is not limited to the bodies directly involved, or to the time of its duration, something terribly imprecise if we consider all the dimensions of the “work of time” that can be done to it, following once again Das’ inspiring proposal (1999; 2007). Considering our more direct interest, it should be highlighted that this non-limitation concerns how schemes are developed around the narratives, categories, criminalizations, framings and eventual reparations around these actions that are linked in an inseparable manner to the very production of state. The violated bodies of the women, when mentioned, accounted for and in a certain way fetishized, in the productive sense even of the fetichism of the state (Taussig, 1993), are inscribed in languages of honor of the state, of ethnic-national belonging or of international reparation of the “crimes of war”. Their intelligibility as “victims” depends, in this way, on processes of framing (Butler, 2009) that simultaneously surround them as bodies that have value, which are unequivocally victimized and belong to a world of equals that respect their pain, and that delineate the very nation state that is projected on them.

Both in the study by Peres as well as that of Das, we see that rapes – those recognized as fact, or those maintained as suspection about the survivors – effectively had a crucial role in the production of territories that came to be seen as ethnic and nationally more homogeneous. We can thus see how much the equation “one people, one territory, one state”, which is so dear to the magic amalgam of the nation states, not only cannot ignore war as its foundational material - whether in its extreme form, or in its routine modes of violent control of populations and territories - as it cannot be produced outside the languages and dynamics of gender. These languages are clearly inscribed, for example, in the fears that truly alter the ethnic compositions of territories, both because of the impossibility of returning to inhabit them, and because of the redefinition of state borders. But they are equally present in the emotional and bureaucratic dilemmas around children that should be registered and “localized” by family, ethnicity and nationality in one network of relations and not another. Or, even, in an ambivalence of the violent acts that can be resoundingly divulged as part of the “crimes of war” and of the national injuries on one level, but that on another should be administered in a discrete manner in more “unimportant” administrative registers, such as reports from social workers; or that can only even move through delicate economies of silence that allow the maintenance of relations of various orders.

“War Does Not Have a Woman’s Face” is the significant title of the book by the Belarussian writer and journalist Svetlana Aleksiévitch (2016) who presents statements from Soviet soldiers in World War II. Right at the beginning, she warns us that throughout her childhood the war was present in the voices of the women of the village who sang and cried. But publically, the war knew only male voices. It was the men who were asked about war, not her grandmother, not her mother. Another war, she said, was revealed by hearing it from the women who acted on the frontlines of battle, who experienced atrocities and who said that they do not fit the heroic narratives. “The war involves too much intimate suffering”, she wrote, placing in contact that which usually occupies extreme poles in our representations: war as action that puts into play and creates giant collective entities – the people, the nation, the country “us”, “them”- and the delicate terrain of intimacy. It thus provokes in us, the thinking that the “other war” of which she speaks, the “war of the women”, does not find its alterity only because it is conducted with female bodies, but because the possibilities of speaking of it and of (re)living it in the narrative are in themselves genderfied.

In the case of the statements born from Aleksiévitch’s encounters with the women, it is striking how much the unimaginable quality of war advances through the narratives, intoxicating any possibility of use of a heroic poetic, which causes them to be accused by husbands, companions or other survivors of “not knowing how to talk about the war”. But this also calls attention to the erasing of their actions as soldiers, a point that coincides with what is indicated by Peres (2011) about the women from different nationalities and ethnicities in the Bosnian war.26 The recurring deletion of the agency of women in contexts of war – as soldiers, narrators and no less important as those who (re)make the ordinary life – can be explained, as Fouron and Glick Schiller (2010:541) argue, to the degree that “nationalist rhetoric frequently portrays a nucleus of men who incorporate the nation, while female bodies are possessed by the nation” (Fouron; Glick Schiller, 2010:541). Nevertheless, they add, “research in post-colonial contexts demonstrate that women can not only claim to incorporate their nation, but may have participated actively in nationalist struggles, especially struggles for national liberation” (Fouron; Glick Schiller, 2010:541).

However, relegated after war to only occupy the role of victims, and in many cases that of ethnic victims of rapes of war, their strategies of resistance and even their forms of active participation in conflict wind up being erased. In the same way as took place in the case of the exemplary narratives about the women who preferred death to dishonor, in the case of the narratives about the Partition (Das, 2007), the discursive, moral and poetic reiteration of this type of national and gender fable erases many other experiences, and silences histories of them. The interlinking between the honor of the states and correct acting of gender does not, obviously, affect only women or even men and women as if they were stable units. We speak, instead, of genderfied modes of distributing shame, pride, fear, hate and many other feelings as “intimate as war” that permeate bodies and relations, people and collectives, memories and archives.

In her book Bearing Witness, Fiona Ross (2003) presents us a complex look at the participation of women in the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation of South Africa, and moreover, of the way that gender dynamics strongly modulate the production of witnesses, of the subjects for whom they serve as correspondents and of the very post-apartheid state under construction. To do so, the author accompanied various audiences, worked with different forms of registering them or based on them, such as official reports about violations produced by the commission and conducted interviews and field work in specific locations, producing a complex ethnography that allows us to access distinct dimensions of the “witness” and of the testifying. An action that produces memories, narratives and documentation, the statements to the commission reveal part of a multifaceted process whose formating will be established by different social actors and for whom the directions taken leave aside many other semantic and political possibilities. Although this is not the focus of her work, we can say that Ross’ ethnography reveals dramatic points of a process of state that finds in the testimony produced in this context crucial elements for narrating, staging and constituting themselves politically and administratively.

At the same time that Ross calls our attention to the Truth Commissions as forums that connect ideas about justice, suffering, human rights, history, responsibility and witness, she also indicates how this process produces very significant translations about violences, injuries and possible reparations that will or will not be recognized. The tightening of the focus on violences centered on the body and their comprehension as “human rights violations” have a significant impact on the way that, at this moment of deep political alteration, meanings are produced for the apartheid regime and its entire colonial extension. Similarly, the reiteration of a form of narrating, crystalizing and registering the violences in terms of the binary perpetrators-victims has an impact on how the structural depth of certain social dynamics is considered and on the possibilities for agency of the actors involved. As Ross indicates, the sense of reconciliation that permeates the commissions cannot be separated from the work of nation building to which they give meaning (Ross, 2003:11).

In terms of our more direct interests in this study, however, it should be noted the degree to which the commissions cannot be thought of outside the dimension of gender – or of race, class and generation – which leads us, once again, to reflect on the embodiments and tessituras of state. The reconciliation and the truth evoked in the commissions pass through processes of enunciation and embodiment of the violations suffered that depend directly on gender for their concretization in bodies and histories, at the same time that they are distributed in forms of telling, hearing and registering that are themselves totally genderfied.

We begin with the very way that the narrative strategies are unequally distributed around the violence and configuration of the men and women who would be its victims. As Ross indicates, the statements of the women are significantly concentrated on the violences suffered by other people, men in the majority, above all their sons, and in a much smaller proportion on the violences that directly touched the women. This was completely different than the men’s testimony, in which the men were the protagonists of their own narratives.27 Appearing at the hearings through this deeply relation space, they narrate and are narrated by a form of “violence” that also speaks of what is political, justice or reparation in this context. The debates that permeate the process of the commissions and that mobilize social actors of various types, including academics and militants concerned precisely with the gender dimension of the testimony, wind up reinforcing certain divisions that, contrary to what may be thought, do not simply arise during the hearings, revealing gender standards that exist outside them, but are engendered through action, as part, we would say, of the dynamics of the production of state that is in process.

By dissecting how much the narratives of the women about the violence suffered by their children, companions or other people are permeated by elements of daily life, Ross seeks to show us that we hear a language that raises important components about the women’s own suffering – which appears to not have a place in this testimony about or for others – but also about the violences that do not fit in the format that is being emphasized by the commissions. Once again, we can consider that we are dealing with processes of state framing, classification and ratification of subjects acts and responsibilities that necessarily produce in their wake a multiplicity of things that appear to not have legibility – or even existence – in this context. To the degree to which violences that would be specific to apartheid are strandardized through the testimony registered, transmitted and transcribed, various other situations are thrust into them, which if heard, do not appear to fit into the format needed for the production of exemplary subjects in this moment. Thus, as in the situation raised by the book by Aleksiévitch, it is clear that there continues to exist a large number of people who do not know how to talk correctly about war.

The mention of domestic routines that were brutally interrupted or contaminated by deaths, imprisonment and suspicions in networks of neighborhood or political alliance, although present in many statements of the women at the hearings, remain as peripheral or dissonant elements in relation to the charges that effectively “count” in this moment of political and state change. Their unimportance indicates the contours of what belongs to the world of politics, as well as hierarchical dynamics of gender, highlighting once again the close interlinking between them. When called on to speak from their position as activists, in turn, sexual violence was highlighted, which was also the focus of recommendations to participants of the commissions to pay special attention and sensibility to this violence.

A synonym and culmination of the way in which the violation of corporal integrity is located in female bodies – and makes them especially female, we can say – violence of a sexual character is highlighted, receives repeated questioning and is disconnected from other acts mentioned, as being equally or more brutal by those that are testifying. This emphasis on the sexual dimension, as something to be scrutinized in the investigations about the practices of torture and intimidation aimed at women, is inscribed in two orders of relative erasure. The first concerns the scope of capillary penetration of the sexualized forms of violence in various situations in South African society, and in particular, in state institutions, affecting not only women (or cis women). Another is related to what we call the blanching of other acts and situations that can be treated by the women themselves as equally or more brutal and harmful than that which was portrayed as sexual violence.28

Similarly to what is presented by other analyses mentioned in this part of the article, the disembowelment and burials of “violences” tells us a lot about the limits and possibilities of a politically genderfied existence in this context. It also reveals to us the depth of the pedagogies of gender in the constitution of practices and imaginations of state, including in those political, ideological and administrative orderings that seek to affirm themselves as “new states”. The close connection between female bodies and sexual violence, and between female testimony and their role primarily as witnesses of violences suffered by children, husbands, companions or even by other women, simultaneously produces grammars of gender and of state, allowing disputes between different masculinities and femininities to give flesh and color to language of new political orders.

In the situations that we chose to highlight until now, the framing of different forms of violence has special effectiveness for marking dramatic state and political transitions or changes, making space for moments of hypervisibility and loquacity in relation to certain acts, relations and people, at the same time that they offer little or no hearing or visibility to other actions. It is, therefore, through an infinity of state attributes, practices and performances that these violences have their meanings concretized, gain exemplary faces and names and integrate grammars related to ethnic, political and national collectivities that they supposedly concern. The stabilization of that which would be inherently unstable – violence, in the terms mentioned by Das (2008) – should thus be considered, to have a special capacity for penetration in the forms of “objectivation and subjectivation inherent to the very process of state” (Souza Lima, 2002).

What can we say, however, when other equations between gender, war, state, reproduction and affect produce not a stabilization of these meanings and narratives of violence (even if at the expense of various others that remain inaudible), but the impossibility of enunciating this violence among the closest relations? The spectral presence of what cannot be told or even thought, permeates the entire disturbing (auto)ethnography of Grace Cho (2008) about the Korean diaspora and its ghosts. Giving the category of ghost a descriptive fertility and analytic depth, Cho takes us to a paradoxical point in which war, nationality, marriage, filiation, race and many other elements flow together to produce more than narrative divergences or asymmetries, but the shadowy presence of a non-narrative that erupts in the backyard of the house, on the dinner table, at the heart of domestic space. There, where the war between two nation states is condensed and later metamorphosed in the marriage between the “American soldier” and the “rescued Korean woman”, the various orders of violence inherent to this encounter cannot be enunciated. For this reason, this violence never leaves the house, the affection or the words that carry other undeclared words within them.29 In the body and the silence of her mother, Cho finds the spectral presence of the memories of a war that was erased in and by marriage, as well as the various violences renewally buried by the collective narrative of rescue of the women and the successful formation of the Korean diaspora in the United States.

We are thus surrounded by geopolitical cartographies that are embedded in the most intimate history of relations and in their most domestic situations, in the same way that the world of intimacy weaves the concrete viability of state actions and imaginations in daily life. Words do not become prohibited or phantasmagoric by chance, but inhabit classificatory economies that become capable of materializing profoundly asymmetrical inscriptions that are dangerous for those men and women on whom they fall. The body “rescued” by marriage is not only racialized or carries within it the brutal histories of one or more wars, but is also that which can move the ghosts of prostitution, rape of the “war bride”, of illegitimate descendence, of undesired national composition. Bastard children, violated women, feminized men, an excess or lack of virility, perversions and fevers are all part, after all, of repertoires that compose the “imaginative geography of empires”, to recall the expression of Edward Said (1994), and integrate narratives about the most praiseworthy desires or the most unspeakable cravings.

The centralities of the pedagogies of gender in state practices and imaginations can also be perceived in more routinized forms of control of territories and populations, and in the policies for fighting human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Based on ethnographic studies conducted with Brazilian sex workers in Spain and police agents in Brazil, Lowenkron and Piscitelli (2015) compare the strategies and effects of confrontation of this crime or the “violation of human rights” in the two countries. As the authors argue, and in a form similar to the most dramatic context presented above, the daily management of human trafficking has been marked by the erasure of agency and by the freezing of female narratives by the emphasis on sexual victimization. These operations cannot be understood, however, without considering the processes of sexualization and racialization of nationality, permeated by gender and class, which produce asymmetries between female narratives or, more precisely, between different feminist currents: the white, Western, colonial and abolitionist feminisms, on one hand, and the post-colonial feminisms of Third World women and or of sexual workers on the other.

The association between activists, academics and sex professionals that marks the second current has resulted in a broad critical production30 that denounces the strategic alliance between abolitionist discourses, public safety polices and the so-called humanitarian reason (Fassin, 2012)31 in the anti-trafficking policies. According to this literature, the language of “human rights” and the idiom of protection, in various parts of the world, has been appropriated by anti-migratory policies and those for combatting prostitution, which has criminalized transnational mobility of male and female migrant workers marked by gender, sexuality, race, class and nationality. By doing this, the anti-trafficking policies have not only erased the voices and agency of “third world women” migrants involved in sex markets, but have also hidden other violations stemming from violent and restrictive migratory policies.

By confronting the narratives of the supposed victims of trafficking with the hegemonic reports about them, the ethnographic studies of Lowenkron and Piscitelli (2015) and other researchers reveal how the main terror that enters the daily lives of these migrant women is the threat of deportation and not of “sexual exploitation”, although this state violence is made invisible or is morally redefined in the official documents and discourses. Similar to other policies of state protection already broadly discussed and criticized, including in this article, based on a political idiom of trafficking, state practices of control and closing of borders associated to national security policies are converted into government practices that are self-defined as humanitarian, morally justified in name of the protection, rescue and salvation of subjects who are portrayed as vulnerable, sexualized and feminized (Kempadoo, 2005; Agustin, 2005; Andrijasevic, 2007).

But, if in the countries of the north it is easy to articulate the repression of human trafficking to the interest of closing the borders of nation-states, how can it be explained that governments of countries of the south, such as Brazil, adhere with equal force to anti human-trafficking policies and discourse? To formulate a hypothesis, Lowenkron and Sacramento (to be published) suggest that the political efforts of the Brazilian state in fighting human trafficking can be read, in part, as strategies of reconfiguration of stereotypes related to nationality, marked by gender, converting the stigma of prostitution associated to Brazilian women into notions such as “vulnerability” and “victimization”, which are attributes more morally valued in the “genderfied geographies of power (Mahler; Pessar, 2001) of the globalized world. Beginning with the presumption that nation states constitute themselves in a genderfied manner in the process of management of social problems (Lowenkron, 2015), such as human trafficking, this analysis allows suggesting that the process of “producing state” (Teixeira; Souza Lima, 2010) occurs based not only on the management of bodies and territories, but also on the management of images of the female and through them, the reconfiguration of images of nation.

We have thus sought to reveal, based on the ethnographies presented, how gender and sexuality (and not only race and ethnicity) are central to the conformation of national bodies, territories and identities, and how gender relations, grammars, asymmetries and violences are articulated in the processes of construction of nation states. If most of the studies analyzed in this part of the article reveal the genderfied processes of construction of nation state in contexts of war, post-war and reconciliation, the analyses of management of human trafficking, and of the Korean diaspora, call attention to the way that gender and nation are mutually constituted at the interior of transnational social fields (Fouron Glick Schiller, 2010).

While in the processes of formation of new nation states it is sexual violence that must be delicately administered and silenced, so that it is once again possible to “inhabit the world” (Das, 2007), in the geopolitical shifts and relations between the global north and south, it is prostitution that appears as a special phantom that haunts the purity of women and national honor. In one way or another, “the female is interpreted as the potential destabilizer of social and political order” (Ausserer 2007:77). Thus, regulatory practices and discourses that simultaneously manufacture gender and state seek to relocate women to spaces of their (own) home and of their (own) country, as Ausserer suggests, referring to the anti-trafficking campaigns, but that can be expanded to consider the dynamics of management of the violences and of narratives about them in the dramatic contexts analyzed by the other authors that we highlighted in this part of the article.

Some concluding notes: routines, desires and disturbances

Throughout this article we sought to combine a set of academic debates and theoretical and ethnographic references that could help produce questionings and raise for discussion different elements of the “dual production” of gender and state. To avoid reproducing the effect of mutual externality that marks analyses that are more specifically dedicated to either one of these focuses, based on which we think of and structure relations of power, we first sought to articulate feminist theoretical concerns and formulations about gender and genderfication of state with anthropological destabilizations of the concept of state. To do so, we invested particularly in the inspiring force and capacity for tensioning offered by some ethnographies that, without explicitly making gender or state the central target of their problematizations – and perhaps for this reason – are particularly useful for illuminating the dynamics of coproduction of gender and state.

In analytical terms, we began with a presumption of non-homogeneity and with the processual character of both gender and state. Therefore, as the works presented show, to understand the processes of statization of gender and genderfication of state it is essential to pursue not only the permanent instability and fluidity of these categories or semantic fields, but also confer the same analytical and ethnographic attention to the multiple processes of fixation and stabilization that simultaneously and relationally constitute both. It is based on these interplays of fluidity and fixation that appear fluctuations and variations of moral and gender attributes consigned to the state. This makes it possible to consider it to be an aggressive violator and an entity responsible for deep affective and social damages, while in the same situations refer to it as a protective instance or the final arena of reparation of this damage.

To perceive these fluctuations, it is also essential to recognize that social actors conduct positioned and strategic actions that simultaneously allow disaggregating or condensing what would be the state: a general and encompassing epithet; a specific institutional materiality; a concrete person, a police officer, a government official, a bureaucrat. The effect of this varied and composed action can be the sustentation of the “theodicy of the state”, in the terms used by Herzfeld (1993) in dialog with Weberian formulations, but also operates by producing meanings that allow social actors to remake their personal and collective trajectories at especially dramatic moments.

The state – in any of its forms, instances and scales - which harm, that must hear, know, promote, restore, etc., is in a certain way a key element or arena in these productions and reproductions of meanings for the life that was altered or became too imprecise, permeated by “critical events” and led to the limit of its intelligibility (Das, 2007). In the ethnographies presented, these limits are illuminated above all through the theme of violences, which are responsible for engendering forms of enunciation and management that explain the most dramatic dimension of the web between gender and state. Nevertheless, if violence appeared in this article as a special heuristic vector for understanding the embodiments and tessituras of this dual production, it is important to highlight the fact that this simultaneously symbolic and material coproduction can also be perceived in more ordinary situations and in bureaucratic routines that define our (dis)encounters with the agents and agencies of state administration and its technologies of government.

As various studies have shown, the daily activity of administrative entities that produce the state in the lives of people is permeated by pedagogies of inequality of all types, even of gender. To narrate oneself and the conditions of one’s suffering as a refugee, for example, can imply delicate choices in relation to what to say and what to silence about political activities and territorial movements, but also about family commitments, sexuality, honor and affect. What fits and what does not fit into these narratives is negotiated and embodied in each official form to be filled out, each interview, each apparent repetition of the stories of the subjects, their fears and their relations (Facundo, 2017). Similarly, we see photographs of transsexual people leaving “profiles” on virtual networks for the counters of a specialized sector of public defenders offices in such a way as to simultaneously operate as a passport for the acquisition of a “right”, which was anxiously desired, and as an accountability and infinite exam of the truths of the self that are only completely concretized if validated in state procedures (Freire, 2016). Performances, categories and materializations of gender circulate on both sides of the counters, reshaping existences that should increasingly present themselves to be more free of their contradictions and hesitations in relation to sex and gender, but also producing in their wake the image of gender as a type of benefit granted by the state.

Dispute, definition and implementation of public policies, access to social goods and an infinity of cognitive, existential and moral operations are also permeated by this circulation between gender and state in its more everyday dimension. This is how it is possible for an upset director of a public nursery school to attribute to the uncontrolled sexuality of “little girls who have too many children”, the responsibility for the lack of space in schools (Fernandes, 2016). Or that the interactions among technicians of a service for “male authors of domestic violence” be permeated by pedagogical devices of various orders by the phantom of the punitive dimension of the state, but also by a myriad of sympathies, random conversation and statements about all sorts of injustices that are suffered at the hands of women, other men, police and destiny (Lopes, 2016). Capturing noises, murmurs and narrative reiterations that are not heard or considered, these and other studies call attention both to the plan of the state as a daily act, and to gender as an ordinary mode of pondering the things of life, the quality of relations and the limits of the state institutionalities themselves.

It is perhaps fitting to ask if it is possible for most of us, considering the strength and scope of the state as an idea and as material plurality in our lives, to narratively organize ourselves in relation to ourselves, our future projects, our regrets and joys without in some form entangling ourselves in narratives of and about the state, and to do so triggering strongly genderfied grammars, and vice-versa. In this sense, questions about the relations between desire and state remain a residue not faced here - like many others. For this close correlation, we can use as a form of provocation the disturbing question about “desiring the state’s desire” raised by Butler (2003a), always recalling that this involves much more than a will to see ourselves and our relations legitimated or politically represented. The shifts and recompositions within the dispositif of sexuality, as recently explored by Sérgio Carrara (2015), certainly carry with them alterations in the orders of desire and gender. First appearing in the language of rights, these changes speak of complex confrontations related to moralities, rationalities and policies, as Carrara indicates, which also involve disputes about notions of family, race, nation, reproduction, power and consent.

Beyond only pursuing “repressive” forms of regulation, as if we must always revive the images of a state that circles us and watches over our corporatilies, intimacies and fantasies, it is important to investigate, as Foucault proposed in the case of sexuality, the incitements and excitations that make the state not a stranger to our desires, but an integral part of them. Among imperial eroticisms and their twists (MacClintock, 2010; Stoler, 2007), among imaginations and national projects that necessarily pass through gender, sex and reproduction (Moutinho, 2004), or even framings and complaints about the costs of love, of devotion and deception (Zelizer, 2011; Gregori, 1993), there is still much ground to cover to problematize the meanings and experiences of gender and state in people’s lives.


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1 Cf. Moore, 1994.

2 As Bourdieu affirmed (1996:134), “in modern societies, the main [entity] responsible for the construction of official categories, according to which are structured both populations and spirits, is the state, through a work of codification”.

3 We are referring here, more directly, to the “dual externality” between gender and state in the field of anthropological studies about the state and in the field of gender studies in the social sciences. But it is important to note that Joan Scott (1995 [1988]) called attention to this aspect when referring, specifically, to the externality of gender in the field of traditional political history. By pointing to this gap, Scott defends the incorporation of gender as a historic category of analysis, which would be useful for considering not only a history of women, children, family or private life, but also of wars, diplomacy and high politics. In Scott’s words: “The power relations among nations and the status of colonial subjects have beem made comprehensible (and thus legitimate) in terms of relations between male and female. The legitimizing of war – of expending young lives to protect the state – has variously taken the forms of the explicit appeals to manhood (to the need to defend otherwise vulnerable women and children), of implicit reliance on belief in the duty of sons to serve their leaders or their (father the) king, and of associations between masculinity and national strength” (Scott, 1995:92). These ideas echo the ethnographies presented in this article, although they also reveal that it is impossible to separate the history of women, the family or private life from the processes of state that Scott calls “high politics” (such as war, diplomacy, etc.).

4 Ver Abrams (1988); Sharma; Gupta (2006); Souza Lima (2013).

5 Not by chance, this article and dossier are also published in a context of rapid decline in relations between women’s and feminist movements and government entities, which until quite recently, appeared to be relatively established. For a recent panorama of these relations, see Gutterres, Vianna and Aguião (2014).

6 For a reflective and critical debate about how “gender violence was encapsulated by the notion of crime and how this expression came to be used in the Brazilian public debate nearly exclusively to refer to “domestic and family violence against women”, see Debert and Gregori (2008).

7 In Brazil, the author is known in the field of studies about sexuality for her influential work in feminist anti-pornography activism. For an interesting analysis about confrontations between radical and liberal feminists during the so-called “sex wars” in the U.S. context of the 1980s, and of how the different positions around the regulation of pornography were articulated to distinct feminist perspectives about the relations between power and pleasure, violence and eroticism see Gregori (2004).

8 This, according to MacKinnon (1989:238), inevitably occurs because “those with power in civil society, not women, design its norms and institutions, which become the status quo. Those with power, not usually women, write constitutions, which become law’s highest standards. Those with power in political systems that women did not design and from which women have been excluded write legislation, which sets ruling values”.

9 The text was originally published in the book States of Injury: Power and freedom in late modernity, in 1995.

10 According to Brown the first possesses a genealogical relationship with masculinity to the degree that liberal discourse and practices are the bases for the social construction of bourgeois masculinity (more than the contrary). In the second, the masculinity of the state is anchored on the separation of the public and the private, on the sexual division of labor and on the economic dependence of women in relation to individual men, and more recently, in relation to the state. It is in the third that the author locates the more immediately visceral and corporal dimension of state power, given that it is based on it that “women are cast as requiring protection from the world of male violence while the superior status of men is secured by their supposed ability to offer such protection” (Brown, 2006:199). The fourth was the object of feminist criticism by Kathy Ferguson (1984apudBrown, 2006), who suggested that bureaucratic power feminizes the bodies of functionaries and clients by making them dependent and submissive.

11 Far from an isolated position, Young here recognizes and echoes the broader criticism of the so-called post-colonial feminisms of the “Western feminisms” in relation to the manner of conceiving and proposing policies (frequently protective or “salvationist”) that affect the life of “third world” men and women. See, among others, the works of Monhanty (2003); Mahmood (2005); Abu-Lughod (2016).

12 It is in this sense that Young (2003) concludes her essay by suggesting that democratic citizenship would mean, in the final analysis, rejecting not the social supports, but the hierarchy between protector and protected. We can add that this involves substituting the logic of state protection as a “gift” to think of these supports as a universal “right”.

13 In the introduction to the dossier “Fazer Estado” he organized at the Revista de Antropologia da USP, Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima expresses the perspective of analysis that he and the other collaborators of the volume follow and of which we are evidently tributary. As Souza Lima (2012:561) affirms, “it seems to us essential to escape from the institutionalism that also supports us when we speak of state. This fazer Estado [State production] that is the title of this dossier, is, therefore, understood here as constant, resulting in forms that are not definitive, in processes of objectification and subjectivation that operate constructing and deconstructing realities in the plane of daily life, acquiring the dimension of automatisms, stemming or not from impositions from an administrative body supported by laws and norms”.

14 About the polysemy of rights, we revive the arguments of Adriana Vianna in the introduction to the collection about the theme: “Various institutional apparatuses, political mobilizations, strategies for collectivizations, moral dramas and personal sufferings (…) interconnect with grammars of ‘rights’ revealing the socially productive dimension of the elasticity present in these grammars”. (Vianna, 2013:15).

15 As a broad literature associated to the so-called post-colonial, transnational and or intersectional studies has shown, there is always a process of mutual constitution of gender, sexuality race, bodies, territories and national identities (McClintock, 2010; Moutinho, 2004; Brah, B2006; Fouron; Schiller, 2010; Togni, 2014; Piscitelli, 2013).

16 Based on the accompaniment of a network of activists formed mainly by family members of people killed by the state police or when held in institutional units, the author discusses this composition in the following manner: “It is based on the principle that statements produced in quite different contexts about these deaths and of the personal and collective work to transform them into formally recognized homicides, through judgement and condemnation of the accused, are organized around certain strong “poles”, forming semantic zones and zones of action within which these family members and militants move. By speaking of these deaths in these diverse contexts, the actors produce readings about what happened, who is responsible, the emotional, moral and political costs involved and the type of reparation and recognition expected, considering the pain experienced not only from the death of a relative, but in various previous and posterior moments that can be connected to this death. In this sense, acts and words are articulated that can function as instruments of accusation, understanding, solidarity and struggle, reconstructing themselves socially and subjectively in this process” (Vianna, 2014b:209-210) .

17 For a detailed look at the movement between different state units and the different strategies and tactics established there by its different actors, see the thesis by Juliana Farias, Governo de Mortes (Farias, 2014)

18 To reflect on the centrality of the metaphor and of the practices of war, pacification and military management in favela territories, see Leite (20120; Leite; Machado da Silva (2013) and Oliveira (20140.

19 We would like to thank Sergio Carrara for indicating to us the dimension of occultation of other females, such as daughters, in this triad.

20“The problem, as I see it, is that once the idea of God as the author of nature and time is displaced and the political body under secularism is seen as subject to death and decay, secular means must be crafted to ensure that the sovereign receives life beyond the lifetime of its individual members (Das, 2007b). This entails two obligations. The first obligation is that men should be ready to bear arms for the nation and be ready to die for it (Taylor, 2004). The second is that women’s reproduction is seen to be rightly belonging to the state (Meyer, 2000; Schoenbrun, 2003) so that as citizens they are obligated to bear “legitimate” children who will be, in turn, ready to die for the nation (Das, 2007b). Thus, sex and death, reproduction and war, become part of the same configuration of ideas and institutions through which the nation-state sets up defenses to stave off the uncertainty emanating from dangerous aliens and from the ravages of time” (Das, 2008:286).

21 About the difference between processes of formation of state and construction of nation, see Elias (2006); about nation as imagined community, see Anderson (2006).

22 Because of the limits of this text, we are not able to more directly dialog with studies about masculinities, which could be productive for deepening in the future the different aspects or types of masculinity attributed to the state in feminist debates and in ethnographies analyzed in this article.

23 According to the author, gestar [gestate] is defined as “forming and sustaining (a child) in one’s womb” and gerir [administrate] as “exercising management over, administrating, directing, managing” (Souza Lima, 2002:16).

24 It is interesting to note that, in the case of the “anti-pedophile crusade” the “myth of the black rapists” criticized by Angela Davis (2016) loses centrality to give place to another model of predatory masculinity, which becomes even more terrifying exactly because it is similar to the others (in terms of race, class, age, nationality) and thus, is dangerously confused with the so-called “good men” (Lowenkron, 2015).

25 In an expressive contemporary anthropological and feminist literature, increasing emphasis has been given to the possibility of agency even in contexts of extreme inequality, violence and oppression, as in the contexts analyzed by the authors focused on in this part of the article. This implied a distancing not only of traditional notions of femininity, but also of liberal concepts of agency, imagined as free-will, or resistance (Ahearn, 2001). In this context, agency comes to be understood as “capacity for action created and propitiated by historically shaped concrete relations of subordination” (Mahmood, 2006:123), which are manifest in diversified strategies of inhabiting the norms and the world, including, for example, the silence, resilience and active incorporation of traditional models of femininity.

26 One of the strongest statements given to Svetlana Aleksiévitch in this respect is perhaps that of Valentina Pávlovna Tchudáieva, a sergeant, commander of an anti-aerial cannon: “We went to the front at the age of 18, 20, and returned with 20, 24. At first it was very joyful, then fear: what will we do in civil life? A fear in relation to a life in times of peace. (…) We only know war, all we knew how to do was war. They want to distance us from war as soon as possible. I quickly used the cloak to sew a coat, I changed the buttons. I sold the boots at a market and bought shoes. The first time that I used a dress, I drowned in tears. I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror, I had been using pants for four years. Who would I tell that I was wounded, injured? You try to say, then who will give you a job, who will marry you? We remain quiet like fish. We do not confess to anyone we had fought at the front. We kept the tie between us, we exchanged letters. After 30 years, they began to honor us…They invited us to encounters. (…) At first we hid, we did not even use the medals. The men did, the women didn’t. The men were winners, heroes, grooms, the war was theirs’; while they looked at us with other eyes. It was completely different…I will tell you, they took our victory, quietly swapped for common female happiness. They did not share victory with us” (Aleksiévitch, 2016:156).

27 According to Ross’s (2003:17-18) survey, 40% of their testimony is about their sons, 14% about themselves and the rest about husbands and other men. Meanwhile, in the case of the men, 62% is about themselves and only 9% about women with whom they have a relationship of kinship and 2% about unknown women.

28 In chapter 4 of the book, Narrative threads, Ross concentrates on the statements of Yvonne Khutwane, a middle age woman who reports, among countless other forms of violence that she suffered when detained, a situation of sexual abuse. The way that the abuse was being highlighted over the other forms of violence and singularized is especially revealing not only of the dynamics of production of testimony, but also of how the other narratives are later composed, like that of the media, making it truly impossible to pay attention to other damages, sufferings and fears insistently reported by Yvonne Khutwane (Ross, 2003:83-102).

29 Cho traces connections between categories that carry within them a somewhat phantasmagoric relationship of anteriority, sustained not in a linear chronology, but in what she calls the “effects of trauma” and “temporality of trauma” that had transgenerational properties and move not only from the past to the present, but also towards the future (Cho, 2008:04-05). In this way, it can be considered that the accusation against Korean women who went to the United States due to marriage with U.S. soldiers in the context of war carried not only the accusation that they were “war brides” but “Yanggongju”, a “yankee whore” and, before that, “comfort women” related to the Japanese occupation.

31 The concept of humanitarian reason, as it was worked with by the author, refers to a form of moral administration of global inequalities strongly anchored in sentiments, such as suffering and compassion, that allow separating true “victims” from those who do not deserve protection.

Received: August 14, 2017; Accepted: October 18, 2017

Translated by Jeffrey Hoff. The authors are extremely grateful for the comments, criticisms and suggestions made to the various versions of this article by Sergio Carrara, Natalia Padovani, Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima, Angela Facundo, Anelise Gutterres, Lucas Freire, Camila Fernandes, Jeferson Scabio, Telma Bemerguy, Aymara Escobar, as well as the participants of the II Seminário do Nusex, held in 2017 at the Museu Nacional.

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