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The Right to Maim by Jasbir K. Puar


Emily Douglas: In this new monograph, Jasbir K. Puar brings together threads from queer theory, disability studies, biopolitics, and assemblage theory to interrupt mainstream disability studies’ neglect of the regulatory mechanisms that produce and maintain debility globally. The main argument of The Right to Maim is that “debilitation and the production of disability are in fact biopolitical ends unto themselves, with moving neither toward life nor toward death as the aim. This is […] the ‘right to maim’”. Foucault originally articulated regulatory power as operating first through the pair of “make die/let live” under the sovereign and then “let die/make live” under biopolitics. Puar’s book is a direct modification of this schema, arguing that the right to maim targets particular subjects under the vector “will not let die.”

[…] The last chapter is where Puar most forcefully makes the book’s central argument that the old biopolitical divisions of “let live/make die” and “make live/let die” have been supplemented by a new regulatory device: the right to maim or injure. Maiming, rather than a by-product of war or a means to another end, is the goal of Israeli tactics and technologies in Gaza, including for instance, “shoot to cripple” plastic and fragmenting bullets. Maiming also enables or capacitates in this context. First, it capacitates the occupied population, preparing the ground for continued occupation under settler colonialism. Second, it reduces death tolls and so promotes the idea of the Israeli military as humanitarian, since maiming and permanent injury are not included in calculations of collateral damage. The right to maim also exercises itself through attacks on health and social support infrastructure, further debilitating the population. Maiming quells present resistance by making targeted individuals debilitated and unable to seek rehabilitation. In addition, Puar contends that the Israeli state seeks to secure an ongoing lack of resistance by projecting only a future full of maiming, as well as by manipulating generational time by “stunting” youth and debilitating familial support systems. The right to maim is not unique to Israel/Gaza, but Puar proposes it as a new framework through which to view other locations and power relations. More here.

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