The Right to Maim

Debility, Capacity, Disability

The Right to Maim

ANIMA: Critical Race Studies Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 18 illustrations Published: November 2017

Author: Jasbir K. Puar

Disability Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Sociology > Social Theory

In The Right to Maim Jasbir K. Puar brings her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to bear on our understanding of disability. Drawing on a stunning array of theoretical and methodological frameworks, Puar uses the concept of “debility”—bodily injury and social exclusion brought on by economic and political factors—to disrupt the category of disability. She shows how debility, disability, and capacity together constitute an assemblage that states use to control populations. Puar's analysis culminates in an interrogation of Israel's policies toward Palestine, in which she outlines how Israel brings Palestinians into biopolitical being by designating them available for injury. Supplementing its right to kill with what Puar calls the right to maim, the Israeli state relies on liberal frameworks of disability to obscure and enable the mass debilitation of Palestinian bodies. Tracing disability's interaction with debility and capacity, Puar offers a brilliant rethinking of Foucauldian biopolitics while showing how disability functions at the intersection of imperialism and racialized capital.


"Puar’s book-length intervention in Disability/Queer Studies could not have come at a better time, and is a great example of scholarship that poses difficult, necessary questions for the future of Disability Studies." — Anna Hamilton, Global Comment

"... a book that needs to be considered in rethinking the future direction of disability studies." — Lennard Davis, Critical Inquiry

"The Right to Maim proves a passionate and thought-provoking critique of the ways in which the state inscribes its power and social control upon the body. . . . An extraordinarily courageous and timely contribution to a radical struggle for global justice." — Sarah Rogers, Al Jadid

"Scholars interested in disability studies, assemblage theory, queer theory, and biopolitics would benefit greatly from encountering The Right to Maim. In its foregrounding of slow debilitation over the notion of the exceptional event, it produces a much-needed triangulation of the disability/ability binary. Puar carefully articulates how racialization manifests within the global racial ontology as license to either disable or debilitate (or often, both), not only impacting subject formation but transforming black and brown bodies from excess in society into new sources of profit." — Emily R. Douglas, Society & Space

"Terrorist Assemblages brilliantly illuminates the imbrication of race and affect." — Amber Jamilla Musser, Social Text

"Jasbir Puar’s work in The Right to Maim is crucial to understanding not only that the nature of settler colonialism is genocidal but also how that genocidal nature operates." — Fred Moten, Social Text

"In The Right to Maim, Puar provides a scathing and politically essential critique of celebration of gay, trans (even as the new shiny disavowed gay), and disabled identities and rights under neoliberal progress narratives. She shows how such projects are part of specific biopolitical regulation regimes tied to settler-colonial nation-building goals." — Liat Ben-Moshe, Social Text

"Building on the analytics she advanced in Terrorist Assemblages, Jasbir Puar brings her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to bear on our understanding of disability." — J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Social Text

"Draws fascinating empirical and theoretical connections. . . . The Right to Maim has much to contribute to major debates occurring within and across disability studies, geographies of sexuality, feminist theory, and critical race studies. Puar charts new territory for feminist geographies." — Eden Kinkaid, Gender, Place & Culture

"An ambitious work. . . . For scholars of mobility, there is much in The Right to Maim to think with and about." — Tallie Ben Daniel, Transfers

"Puar provides a scathing and politically important critique. . . . A compelling and important analysis." — Liat Ben-Moshe, Women's Studies Quarterly

"Challenges the reader with a rigorous analysis. . . . A very engaging text that insists on a shared commitment for justice in Palestine and a responsibility within disability studies to consider far beyond the exceptional." — Joshua Falek, Cultural Studies

"The Right to Maim channels and challenges a considerable array of intellectual resources in order to show how debility, disability, and capacity constitute an assemblage that states use to control populations."  — Alison Howell, The Disorder of Things

"Jasbir Puar exposes the racial, class, national and other biases of [the] discourse of disability rights. . . . The Right to Maim may help us queer [international relations] in all the best senses of that term: to bring awareness to the foundational inequalities based on racist violence and economic exploitation that has produced our present worlds." — Sankaran Krishna, The Disorder of Things

"Jasbir Puar’s The Right to Maim makes an important contribution to our thinking about the connection between debility, capacity and disability. The book challenges binary thinking and offers a continuum when thinking about dis/ability." — Isis Nusair, The Disorder of Things

"Jasbir Puar’s greatest accomplishment in The Right to Maim is [that] it manages to intervene in a dizzying array of important theoretical debates, contribute to a diverse body of scholarship ranging from critical disability studies to political economy, and continually expand the remit of critique. In other words, it often supplies surprising answers to questions you may be asking and poses new questions to the answers you might have hoped you already had." — Nivi Manchanda, The Disorder of Things

"Jasbir Puar's challenging and provocative new book . . . contests the function and meaning not only of sovereign statecraft, but also of settler colonialism. . . .  The Right To Maim is not merely an interesting intellectual contribution—it aspires to make interventions on behalf of social justice across the vast terrains of debility, capacity, and disability it sketches. It is a book that must be reckoned with not only by scholars, but also by activists and policymakers." — Darcy Leigh and Cynthia Weber, The Disorder of Things

"Groundbreaking. . . . A trenchant analysis of how categories and analytical insights sometimes come into being at the expense of other forms of social experience." — Rahul Rao, The Disorder of Things

"Jasbir Puar’s work, bringing together disability studies, queer theory, Foucauldian biopolitics and settler colonial studies . . . reveals the centrality of the phenomena of debility, disability and capacity for understanding contemporary politics there. . . . The Right to Maim is a great gift to future scholars who should find in the book rich inspiration for further work. A fascinating intellectual agenda has been demarcated, and a prescient window into the politics of the colonisation of Palestine has been opened here." — James Eastwood, Radical Philosophy

"Powerful. . . . Jasbir Puar's project draws attention to the ways in which trans and disabled bodies are both subject to the recapacitation machine as their (racialized) bodily differences are operationalized as defects." — Courtenay W. Daum, Politics & Gender

"Hugely rewarding.  . . . An important book for scholars and students rethinking disability and capacity, but also for those studying Israel’s racialized permanent war against the Palestinians." — Ronit Lentin, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"Social theorists, social justice organizers, and indeed all anthropologists, would do well to read this book. The Right to Maim should also be read in social science courses that consider identity politics in America. As a kind of social experiment, it would be entertaining for someone as myopically unaware of the social inequality Puar is discussing, and the ways in which identity is formed outside of White Patriarchal Male Perspectives—like Jordan Peterson—to read this book." — Dina Omar, Somatosphere

"[This] book is groundbreaking— nay, field-cracking— and will likely be read, reviewed, and engaged with vigor in the multifarious subfields for whom it bears implications." — Allison L. Rowland, Journal of Medical Humanities

"The Right to Maim represent[s] the exciting directions in research that can emerge through the lenses of disability and debility when brought together with other interdisciplinary frameworks." — Linda Luu, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies

"Puar’s larger aim of calling attention to debilitation as an instrument of exploitation and control is a crucial contribution to efforts to understand the relationships between material bodies, the state, and capitalism." — Nimrod Ben Zeev, Journal of Palestine Studies

"We desperately need more intersectional coordinates on the map of disability studies, and Puar’s book brings this to the table." — David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, GLQ

"The Right to Maim is a groundbreaking work. . . . I wish this book was longer. By the end of the text I was craving more, which is the highest praise I can think to give to a book. While some of the more theory-laden moments in the book threaten to distract from the content, especially when Deleuzian concepts are invoked, it never becomes overwhelming and the text itself remains a brief but brilliant work that I recommend highly." — Jack Leff, Somatechnics

“… The Right to Maim delivers. The book is groundbreaking—nay, field-cracking—and will likely be read, reviewed, and engaged with vigor in the multifarious subfields for whom it bears implications …” — Allison Rowland, Journal of Medical Humanities

"Jasbir K. Puar's latest book offers us a new vocabulary for understanding disability, debility, and capacity, three terms that anchor a sharp and provocative analysis of biopolitics of neoliberalism, police power, and militarization. Gaining recognition for disability within terms that instrumentalize and efface its meanings carries a great risk. So too does opting out of discourse altogether. Puar references a wide range of scholarly and activist resources to show how maiming becomes a deliberate goal in the continuing war on Palestine, and how the powers of whiteness deflect from the demographics of disability and ability. Lastly, her deft understanding of how the attribution of 'capacity' can work for and against people in precarious positions will prove crucial for a wiser and more radical struggle for justice." — Judith Butler

"Jasbir K. Puar's The Right to Maim is obligatory reading for anyone concerned with the continuing operation and the ethical and political implications of racial power. By exploring the production of the 'disabled subject' as both a reiteration of how whiteness organizes the modern political text and an effect of the unleashing of the racial logic of obliteration (in US and Palestinian cities), Puar exposes the complexities and compromises troubling articulations of subjects of rights/protection." — Denise Ferreira Da Silva, author of Toward a Global Idea of Race

"Jasbir K. Puar's must-read book The Right to Maim revolutionizes the study of twenty-first-century war and biomedicine, offering a searingly impressive reconceptualization of disability, trans, and queer politics. Bringing together Middle East Studies and American Studies, global political economy and gendered conflict studies, this book's exciting power is its revelation of the incipient hegemony of maiming regimes. Puar's shattering conclusions draw upon rigorous and systematic empirical analysis, ultimately offering an enthralling vision for how to disarticulate disability politics from this maiming regime's dark power." — Paul Amar, author of The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism

“In signature style, Jasbir K. Puar takes readers across multiple social and textual terrains in order to demonstrate the paradoxical embrace of the politics of disability in liberal biopolitics. Puar argues that even as liberalism expands its care for the disabled, it increasingly debilitates workers, subalterns, and others who find themselves at the wrong end of neoliberalism. Rather than simply celebrating the progressive politics of disability, trans identity, and gay youth health movements, The Right to Maim shows how each is a complex interchange of the volatile politics of precarity in contemporary biopower.” — Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jasbir K. Puar is Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University and the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Hands Up, Don't Shoot!  ix
Acknowledgments  xxv
Introduction: The Cost of Getting Better  1
1. Bodies with New Organs: Becoming Trans, Becoming Disabled  33
2. Crip Nationalism: From Narrative Prosthesis to Disaster Capitalism  63
3. Disabled Diaspora, Rehabilitating State: The Queer Politics of Reproduction in Palestine/Israel  95
4. "Will Not Let Die": Debilitation and Inhuman Biopolitics in Palestine  127
Postscript: Treatment without Checkpoints  155
Notes  163
Bibliography  223
Index  261
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2018 Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, presented by the National Women's Studies Association

Winner, 2018 Alan Bray Memorial Book Award, presented by the GLQ Caucus of the Modern Language Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6918-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6892-2
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