Brown Girls, White Feminism, and the Necropolitics of War (with Moon Charania)

In this week’s episode, guest Moon Charania discusses her article “Ethical Whiteness and the Death Drive: White Women as the New War Hero,” which examines how contemporary films use white women protagonists to justify drone warfare and military intervention in the Middle East. Charania argues that media mobilize the figure of the suffering brown girl to elicit empathy and to assuage Western audiences’ guilt about collateral damage in neo-colonial wars. Through what Charania calls “ethical whiteness”, Global North citizens can promote humanitarian causes to rescue Global South brown girls from numerous atrocities without interrogating how their own governments are responsible for creating the conditions for such atrocities.

“What I thought was interesting about these programs [UN’s Data2X, Clinton Foundation’s “No Ceilings” report, Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative] is that they produce girls as a specifically oppressed group, disenfranchised and without access to core human rights. This at-risk brown girl of another society is equal parts fantastic idea and empirical fact, and represents the possibilities of neoliberal and neo-colonial futures just as she also hints at the violent colonial past that can be recuperated by recuperating her. The way in which brown girls in the Global South become interesting to the North is often through surviving violence done to her, through this public claim to social injury. And this notoriety and intrigue is not extended to, say, black girls who survive white U.S. violence.”

Episode Transcript (opens as PDF)

Show Notes

03:00 Will the Real Pakistani Woman Please Stand Up? by Moon Charania

08:30 a short profile of Gina Haspel, “the Queen of Torture”

12:00 the United Nations declaration of the International Day of the Girl Child

16:30 A Taste for Brown Bodies by Hiram Pérez

20:30 No Future by Lee Edelman

22:00 Incarcerated Childhood and the Politics of Unchilding by Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

37:45 Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

42:45 The Aftermath of Feminism Gender, Culture and Social Change by Angela McRobbie

52:30 an explainer on the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomous status by Narendra Modi’s government

About the Guest

Moon Charania is an Assistant Professor in International Studies at Spelman College and Affiliate faculty in Comparative Women’s Studies.  Charania researches and teaches in the area of transnational feminism, queer of color critique and psychoanalysis. Her first book, Will the Real Pakistani Woman Please Stand Up: Empire, Visual Culture, and the Brown Female Body (2015) offers a detailed analysis of multiple kinds of figures of Pakistani women that currently travel in transnational media, books and film and interrogates the ways in which these figures are used to sustain imperial projects of war, militarization and global Islamophobia. Dr. Charania has also published widely on race and critical theory, queer of color critique, and transnational feminist theory. She is currently working on a second book manuscript, Archive of Tongue (Duke U. Press), a multi-genre project that investigates an archive of brownness through the provocation of the maternal.