The Sexist Microphysics of Power


The Alcàsser Case and the Construction of Sexual Terror

by Nerea Barjola
translated by Emily Mack
forward by Silvia Federici

A groundbreaking feminist text that frames our obsession with true crime as a form of sexual terror.

In 1992, three teenage girls went missing from the small town of Alcàsser in Valencia, Spain while on their way to a nightclub, in a case whose strangeness and brutality continues to draw popular speculation decades later. Feminist theorist Nerea Barjola retraces the high-profile search to find them and the media frenzy of the ensuing trial to explore our cultural fascination with the harm done to women’s bodies.

The graphic rehearsal of the details in news and media fuels cautionary tales of sexual danger that induce in women a mental map of places they can and cannot go, the activities they dare not do. Rape is not an individual crime but the expropriation of the female body, a threat leveled against a class of potential victims that shifts the burden of staying safe onto their own internalized policing. This, Barjola argues, is the frontline for female transgression, freedom, and resistance.

Offering a feminist take on Giorgio Agamben’s concept of bare life, this riveting case study identifies spaces where women cross beyond social limits—a house, a party, a car—into a place where danger is all but inevitable, where the state of exception turns into the scene of the crime. The Sexist Microphysics of Power builds on Judith Butler’s work on performativity, Michel Foucault’s thinking on the day-to-day operations of power, and Silvia Federici’s analysis of the witch hunt to propose a paradigm shift in our understanding of the systemic impact of gender violence and of a culture the relishes in its lurid repetition.

In 2021, the Spanish government awarded the book a national distinction for the significance of its research for social transformation.

Paperback | 296 pages | AK Press | 2024

Nerea Barjola is a feminist scholar and militant whose work focuses on popular representations of sexual violence. She received her doctorate in Feminisms and Gender from the University of the Basque Country and lives in Bilbao, Spain.

Emily Mack is a translator, teacher, and amateur carpenter active in the feminist struggle and other social movements. Born near Birmingham, England, she is now based in Girona, Catalonia, where she lives, works, and agitates.

Silvia Federici is a feminist activist, teacher, and writer, who in 1972 was among the founders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the Campaign for Wages for Housework in the US and abroad. Her most important work, Caliban and the Witch, has been translated into fourteen languages. She is also the author of Revolution at Point Zero and Re-enchanting the World.

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