Gender, identity, and the security state: The politics of international drug trafficking

Ellie Christine Schemenauer, Florida International University


This dissertation examined how United States illicit drug control policy, often commonly referred to as the "war on drugs," contributes to the reproduction of gendered and racialized social relations. Specifically, it analyzed the identity producing practices of United States illicit drug control policy as it relates to the construction of U.S. identities. Drawing on the theoretical contributions of feminist postpositivists, three cases of illicit drug policy practice were discussed. In the first case, discourse analysis was employed to examine recent debates (1986-2005) in U.S. Congressional Hearings about the proper understanding of the illicit drug "threat." The analysis showed how competing policy positions are tied to differing understandings of proper masculinity and the role of policymakers as protectors of the national interest. Utilizing critical visual methodologies, the second case examined a public service media campaign circulated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy that tied the "war on drugs" with another security concern in the U.S., the "war on terror." This case demonstrated how the media campaign uses messages about race, masculinity, and femininity to produce privileged notions of state identity and proper citizenship. The third case examined the gendered politics of drug interdiction at the U.S. border. Using qualitative research methodologies including semi-structured interviews and participant observation, it examined how gender is produced through drug interdiction at border sites like Miami International Airport. By paying attention to the discourse that circulates about women drug couriers, it showed how gender is normalized in a national security setting. What this dissertation found is that illicit drug control policy takes the form it does because of the politics of gender and racial identity and that, as a result, illicit drug policy is implicated in the reproduction of gender and racial inequities. It concluded that a more socially conscious and successful illicit drug policy requires an awareness of the gendered and racialized assumptions that inform and shape policy practices.

Subject Area

International law|International relations|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Schemenauer, Ellie Christine, "Gender, identity, and the security state: The politics of international drug trafficking" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3235616.