Feminist Conspiracies, Security Aunties, and Other Surveillance State Fictions


This article investigates two recent fictional representations of the feminized US surveillance state and its “security feminists” (Grewal), with an eye towards limning what visions of social transformation and political life such representations make possible. It first examines Gish Jen’s 2020 novel The Resisters, considering how the novel’s characterization of the US surveillance state as a snoopy suspicious Aunt maintains American liberal fantasies about the value of productive work and institutionally-sanctioned responses to state violence, even as the novel attempts to find grounds for reinvigorating a democratic commons. Jeff Vandermeer’s 2021 novel Hummingbird Salamander, in contrast, is suspicious of democratic visions of the social. Instead, the novel unravels the privatized figure of the “security mom” (Grewal) in order to experiment with how a queer antisocial orientation might confront environmental and institutional collapse and reimagine the idea of “security” itself.


US surveillance state; feminism; antisocial theory; the commons; Aunty work

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Published : 2022-06-15

StuelkeP. (2022). Feminist Conspiracies, Security Aunties, and Other Surveillance State Fictions. Review of International American Studies, 15(1), 51-68. https://doi.org/10.31261/rias.12453

Patricia Stuelke  patricia.r.stuelke@dartmouth.edu
Dartmouth College  United States

Patricia Stuelke is an associate professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. She is the author of The Ruse of Repair: US Neoliberal Empire and the Turn from Critique (Duke UP, 2021). Her work has also appeared in journals such as American Literary History, American Literature, American Quarterly, differences, and Genre.

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