The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability

Jasbir K. Puar

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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 HamiltonGlobal Comment

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 RogersAl Jadid

"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 MotenSocial 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 KauanuiSocial 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 KinkaidGender, Place & Culture

"Puar provides a scathing and politically important critique. . . . A compelling and important analysis."
Liat Ben-MosheWomen'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 FalekCultural Studies

"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 EastwoodRadical Philosophy

"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 LentinInternational Journal of Middle East Studies

"Social theorists, social justice organizers, and indeed all anthropologists, would do well to read this book. T
he 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 OmarSomatosphere

"[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. RowlandJournal of Medical Humanities

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 LeffSomatechnics
“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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