Reproducing whiteness: Feminist genres, legal subjectivity and the post-racial dystopia of 'The Handmaid’s Tale' (2017-)

Date & time

1–2pm Thursday 11 October 2018


Phillipa Weeks Staff Library

ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, The Australian National University


Dr Karen Crawley, Griffith University


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ANU Law Marketing & Communications
College seminar
Karen Crawley

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.


  • Karen Crawley »

    Karen Crawley researches and teaches at the intersection of law, justice and aesthetics. Her research is interdisciplinary and draws on literary theory, critical theory, and feminist legal philosophy to inquire into how legal subjects enact, embody and resist law and envision justice. She is co-editor of Envisioning Legality: Law, Culture and Representation (Routledge 2018).

    She is Managing Editor of the Australian Feminist Law Journal, Editorial Board member of the Griffith Law Review, and Vice-President of the Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia

    She has published on the censorship of theatre and the theatricality of censorship, the role of controversial photographs in reframing questions of sexual citizenship, the regulation of street art and the right to expression in urban spaces, the challenge that the aesthetics of graphic novels pose to legal notions of harm.

    She is currently working on: Theorising Censorship through Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman; Feminist Legal Theory and The Handmaid's Tale, and Stories We Tell: Documenting Filial Relationships in Law and Literature. She is also collaborating with Dr Julie Fragar from QCA on a funded project called 'Artist as Witness: Investigating the Role of the Artist in the Trial Space.'


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