punishment | atrocity crimes | social inequality
the making of race, gender, sexual identity, class, & criminality at the hands of the State
Mass incarceration is only the tip of the iceberg. More than 50,000 laws across the United States punish criminalized people in ways beyond imprisonment and probation—by denying political access, employment opportunities, civil rights, and government benefits. These “hidden sentences” directly apply to more than 1 in 3 American adults, but public attention and political discourse remain centered around the 1 in 135 who are incarcerated. In fact, these punishments have formed gradually throughout American history and they have long operated beneath the surface to (re)create and legitimate race, class, sexual identity, and other social inequalities.
Genocide is not just mass murder. Dead battle-aged men are not a genocide’s only victims. Genocidal violence targets and affects entire cultures through a systematic process of intersectional victimization: racial epithets, killings, rape, destruction of infrastructure and resources, and mass displacement that are experienced differentially by gender, by age, and by other characteristics. Understanding genocides like Darfur’s therefore requires treating killing and other kinds of violence as complex, interacting processes that destroy groups and cultures together, through the intersectional experiences of their members.
State-led violence, insurgency, and terrorism are the results of complex cultural framings than change and develop over time—not simple results of long-standing ethnic cleavages or path-dependent resource investments. Persistent levels of anti-state violence throughout (and long after) the U.S.-led Iraq War were the foreseeable results of aggressive, cynical U.S./Coalition strategies that divided the Iraqi state and communities along ethno-racial lines. As a result of those tactics, Arab Shi’a and especially Arab Sunni communities developed feelings of “legal cynicism,” a cultural frame that predictably causes long-term cultural effects and future violence.