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Getting away with murder in North America: how is massive lucrative death by design possible?

The border between Mexico and the USA is technically nothing more than an imaginary boundary, a political convention – hence contestable and indeed contested – a line drawn on a map materialized by bits of barriers erected on the ground profaning the desert soil.

However, being on the ‘wrong’ or the ‘right’ side of this border has long subjectively been experienced as the difference between an idealized prosperity (the so-called ‘American dream’) and a dreaded hardship that so many keep fleeing. This border in particular has long bared witness to various forms of extreme violence: the establishment of sweat shops (maquiladoras) in the nineties following the infamous NAFTA agreement of 1994, the on-going wave of feminicides in northern Mexican states that both countries’ governments seem complicit in ignoring, the deaths and trafficking of numerous migrants and asylum seekers from Mexico and other Caribbean, Central American and South American Countries... Countless human beings – we don’t even know how many started the journey in the first place – have lost their lives, their loved ones and their dignity in trying to get across that border in search of a supposedly better life. This is not a phenomenon that is easily objectified or quantified with accuracy. Yet, it happens. Death happens. Every single day. As a challenge staring us in the face.

However, saying that it ‘happens’, should not be understood as in the common phrase ‘shit happens’, since this would seem to suggest that such deaths are incidental or even accidental. On the contrary, along the lines of the contributions of the volume where this chapter is published (Estevez, A. (ed), 2021, Necropower in North America: the legal spatialization of disposability and lucrative death. Palgrave Macmillan, what this chapter argues is that they are anything but incidental or accidental:

Morphing human beings into disposable things and ultimately making them die happen by design, and at an industrial scale.

This is why this chapter argues that it is essential to understand the mechanisms producing and sustaining ‘the order’ of necropower and disposability in North America, that is to unpack how necropower, understood as the institutionalized organization of lucrative death and its corollary production of human disposability is empirically because conceptually possible. Ultimately, it is such epistemic mechanisms that lead the necroempowered agents not only to continually commit murder and profit from it, but to – literally and worse still, lawfully – get away with it.

In other words, what constitutes the epistemic ‘order’ or ‘logic’, i.e. the apparatus that supports the justifications, ideology and frames of thought behind necropower and human disposability in North America?

Four intertwined epistemic mechanisms sustaining the logic of necropower in the region are identified and analyzed: normalization of violence and death, masculinization, marketization and derision.

See the full chapter here.

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