Securing social difference

Militarization and sexual violence in an Afro-Nicaraguan community

by Jennifer Goett

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Renewed violence in Nicaragua in the aftermath of the 1980s Contra War is tied to the drug trade, drug war militarization, and the rise of the postwar security state. State sexual violence in an Afro-Nicaraguan community under counternarcotics military occupation vividly demonstrates this linkage. I argue that state sexual violence in this case has served as a mechanism for asserting mestizo state sovereignty in a minoritized security zone. The forms of racial and patriarchal power that enabled the violence permeate the social body and structure political life in Nicaragua, and their diffuse nature has made it difficult for local people to find political redress for the abuses of state power that occurred in their community. Politically engaged feminist ethnography can illuminate the relationship between state security projects, preexisting social hierarchies, and endemic forms of insecurity and violence that remain difficult to politicize in postwar Central America.