Law and Critique

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 229–253 | Cite as

Queer Necropolitics and the Expanding Carceral State: Interrogating Sexual Investments in Punishment

  • Sarah LambleEmail author


This article examines the changing relationship between sexual politics and the carceral state. While sexual and gender nonconforming people have been historically punished for transgressing social norms, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Europe and North America have begun to invest in the state punishment of others. Whether supporting hate crime legislation, calling for more police in gentrifying neighborhoods, or participating in police recruitment campaigns, organisations that formerly fought against criminalisation trends now actively support expanding forms of state violence and punishment. Focussing on examples from the British and US context—and drawing from the concept of ‘queer necropolitics’—this article considers how the carceral state has shifted from a key target of queer protest to celebrated guardian of sexual citizenship. Arguing that this process constitutes more than just another story of queer assimilation and co-optation, the article suggests this shift reflects a deeper reconfiguration of sexual politics, where citizenship norms and practices are increasingly infused with a chillingly punitive and deathly logic.


Biopolitics Hate crime Necropolitics Prisons Punishment Queer theory Racism Sexual citizenship Sexuality 



This article grew out of conversations initiated by Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman and Silvia Posocco around the concept of ‘queer necropolitics’ as part of their forthcoming edited collection by the same title. My thanks to all three for encouraging me to write this piece and for engaging in fruitful discussion and critique during its formulation. I am also grateful to the following people who gave helpful comments on earlier drafts as well as two anonymous reviewers: Davina Cooper, Elijah Edelman, Jennifer Fraser, Suhraiya Jivraj, Sarah Keenan, Les Moran, Dean Spade and scholars at the Beatrice Bain Research Group at the University of California, Berkeley.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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