Rape as a settler colonial weapon: Cristy A. Dougherty, Rape: A Settler-Colonial and Anti-Black Project, PhD dissertation, University of Denver, 2021


Abstract: White feminist theorizations of rape privilege patriarchy as the main source of gender violence, ultimately centering white cisgender women. In doing so, white women are treated as subject in anti-rape discourse while the violence inflicted on women of color is rendered as secondary and insignificant. Conversely, Indigenous and Black feminist analytics center Indigenous and Black women’s experiences with sexual violence, ultimately pointing to the ways in which rape has been used as a tool to perpetuate heteropatriarchy, settler-colonialism, and anti- Black racism. For instance, Deer (2015) explains that Indigenous women experience disproportionately high rates of sexual violence that spans generations. She reasons that the systematic imposition of patriarchy is largely a European project (p. 18). Additionally, Crenshaw (1991) argues that anti- rape law and judicial reforms are not built to address and attend to the unique needs of Black women (p. 1270) because they relegate women of color to “a location that resists telling” (p. 1242). Thus, there is clear connection between the historical European imposition of patriarchy and rape to anti-rape law and judicial reforms that work to silence, violate, and work against women of color. It is for this reason that I argue that rape is an integral tool of settler colonialism and white supremacy. Additionally, in this project, I ask the following questions: How do settler-colonial and anti-Black systems determine what is as is not the truth of rape and why? In other words, when have settler colonial and anti-Black systems justified and rationalized rape and why? Who is implicated by these truths? How can we disassemble these truths despite their existence and implications? In order to answer these questions, I turn to Indigenous and Black feminism to inform my analysis of chosen sites of study. Specifically, I employ a performance approach to personal narrative to analyze legal testimonials and media projects that center Black and Indigenous women. Furthermore, the overall purpose of this project is to theorize rape as a central tool of settler colonialism and anti-Blackness.

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