The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-), a US television series adapted from a widely popular novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood (1985), is widely understood as a feminist intervention that speaks to ongoing and worldwide struggles over gender oppression and, in particular, reproductive rights.
In this talk, however, Karen considers the invitations that the show offers its viewers in treating race the way that it does, and what it means to refuse these invitations. The Handmaid’s Tale post-racial aesthetic means that its thematic engagement with gender, sexuality and resistance elides race, politics and history. The dystopic address of the show promises wakefulness, but actually invites viewers to keep their eyes shut to the ongoing reproduction of whiteness in contemporary liberal configurations of legal subjectivity and state authority. Its problematic feminism is thus uniquely instructive for critical feminist understandings of how rights, legal subjectivity, and violence operate in the context of historical and contemporary structures of racism and white supremacy.
In this talk, Karen pursues a resistant reading of the handmaid’s tale(s) from an antipodean position that resituates its dramatization of reproductive violence in the context of the relationship between gender, race, and the nation’s investment in the reproduction of whiteness.