Equality Claims and Population Control


  • Dean Spade Seattle University School of Law




critical race theory, intersectionality, state violence, prison abolition, immigration control, social movements


Critical Race Theory generally and intersectionality theory in particular have provided scholars and activists with clear accounts of how the legal approaches to oppression that have been taken up through the anti-discrimination principle have failed to sufficiently change conditions for those facing the most violent manifestations of settler colonialism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, and xenophobia. These interventions have exposed how the discrimination principle's reliance on individual harm, intentionality, and universalized categories of identity has made it ineffective at eradicating these forms of harm and violence and has obscured the actual operations of systems of meaning and control that produce maldistribution and targeted violence. This paper follows this line of thinking an additional step to focus on the racialized-gendered distribution schemes that operate at the population level through programs that declare themselves race and gender neutral but are founded in the production and maintenance of race and gender categories as vectors for distributing life chances. In the context of intensifying criminal and immigration enforcement and wealth disparity, it is essential to turn our attention to what Foucault called "state racism"--the operation of population-level programs that target some for increased security and life chances while marking others for insecurity and premature death. This paper looks at how social movements resisting intersectional state violence are formulating demands (like prison abolition and an end to immigration enforcement) that exceed the narrow confines of the discrimination principle and take administrative systems as adversaries in ways that pull the nation-state form itself into crisis.

Author Biography

Dean Spade, Seattle University School of Law


How to Cite

Spade, D. (2011). Equality Claims and Population Control. Feminists@law, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/03/fal.31