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The Semiotic Fractures of Vulnerable Bodies: Resistance to the Gendering of Legal Subjects

Urquiza-Haas, Nayeli (2017) The Semiotic Fractures of Vulnerable Bodies: Resistance to the Gendering of Legal Subjects. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 30 (4). pp. 543-562. ISSN 0952-8059. E-ISSN 1572-8722. (doi:10.1007/s11196-016-9502-9) (KAR id:60765)

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While the turn to vulnerability in law responds to a recurrent critique by feminist scholars on the disembodiment of legal personhood, this article suggests that the mobilization of vulnerability in the criminal courts does not necessarily offer female drug mules a direct path to justice. Through an analysis of sentencing appeals of female drug mules in England and Wales, this article presents a feminist critique of the dispositif of the person and its relation to vulnerability. Discourses on drug mules’ vulnerability mobilize the trope of the colonial victim in need of protection, which is often translated into legal mercy. But mercy is rather an expression of biopower which inscribes not only fragility onto the bodies of drug mules by figuring them as exemplar paradigms of colonial subjectivity, but also reinvigorates the dispositif of gender implicit in the legal person. In this set-up, it would appear as if law and politics totalize the registers of life, in this case the contours of vulnerable body. The article suggests we must revisit the image of the wounded body in order to carve out a space for resistance. Drawing on Elaine Scarry and Judith Butler, it suggests vulnerable bodies are marked by a semiotic openness, which renders them subject to appropriation but also able to signify the precarity produced by the law through their resistance to representation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s11196-016-9502-9
Uncontrolled keywords: Vulnerability; Feminism; Biopolitics; Sentencing; Drug mules; Pain; Legal mercy
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: Dr Nayeli Urquiza-Haas
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2017 10:33 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2021 07:27 UTC
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Urquiza-Haas, Nayeli:
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