States of Injury: Josephine Butler on Slavery, Citizenship, and the Boer War

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In her recent collection of essays, States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (1995), Wendy Brown argues that western liberal political constituencies, feminists among them, have traditionally protested against exclusion from the universal category of "citizen" by insisting on their "wounded attachments" to the nation-state as the basis for civic participation. This essay attempts to lend historical depth to her provocative contention by analyzing a discrete example of Victorian feminist production, Josephine Butler's Native Races and the War (1900). In her tract, which was a defense of British military aggression in South Africa as well as of its imperial interests there, Butler mobilizes the discourse of antislavery to justify Britain's involvement in the war as well as to foreground the "pathetic" plight of African men under Afrikaner rule. In a series of rhetorical maneuvers that echo and refigure British feminists' attachments to the sentimentalized discourses of antislavery, Butler uses the "states of injury" suffered by black South Africans to make an argument for the necessity not just of British imperial rule, but British women's suffrage as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-361
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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