Women's Wealth, Work, and Citizenship in the True Crime Genre, 1979-1991

Deena Varner, Purdue University


“Women’s Wealth, Work, and Citizenship in the True Crime Genre, 1979-1991” is an interdisciplinary cultural studies project that examines true crime, media, and juridical discourses about women criminals from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. Women’s criminality is often dehistoricized and framed as a private, domestic, or pathological matter. By foregrounding the historical situatedness of true crime narratives, female criminalities emerge as complex political responses to socio-economic life. I focus on the ways that Reagan-era neoliberalism, Soviet détente, and Latin American border policies shape political life, including crime, as well as attitudes about crime. Taking women who transgress the law to be limit cases for what constitute gender, citizenship, and national belonging, I use representations of non-violent women to consider how female criminalities shape and are shaped by contemporary political and economic forces and neoliberal and capitalist ideologies. I engage borderlands studies, feminist criminology, security studies, and feminist and black feminist legal and political theory to show how particular material conditions help to produce the raced, classed, and gendered legal and political subject during the 1980s.




Plotnitsky, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Womens studies|American studies|American literature

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