Reproducing Whiteness: Feminist Genres, Legal Subjectivity and the Post-racial Dystopia of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

Law and Critique 29 (3):333-358 (2018)
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This article investigates the critical potential of a contemporary dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale (Miller 2017-), a U.S. television series adapted from a popular novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood (1985). The text is widely understood as a feminist intervention that speaks to ongoing struggles against gender oppression, but in this article I consider the invitations that the show offers its viewers in treating race the way that it does, and consider what it means to refuse these invitations in pursuit of a critical feminist understanding of authority, legal subjectivity, and violence. Drawing on the recent turn to genre, my reading focuses on how whiteness is reproduced through this cinematic text and its inculcation of particular ways of seeing, modes of identification and attachment. The Handmaid’s Tale’s post-racial aesthetic means that its thematic engagement with gender, sexuality and resistance actively disavows national and international histories of racist state violence and white supremacy. Its problematic feminism is thus uniquely instructive for understanding how whiteness is reproduced in contemporary (neo)liberal configurations of legal subjectivity and state authority.



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