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‘My Body is a Sacrifice Zone’: Place-Based Analysis of Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women

Authors: Annita Lucchesi*, University of Arizona - Geography & Development
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Gender, Legal Geography
Keywords: Indigenous, gender violence, sexual violence, environmental justice, feminist geographies
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


It is often said that violence against the land goes hand in hand with violence against Indigenous women. This paper builds on this idea to ask, how might a deeper place-based analysis of specific forms and moments of sexual violation of Indigenous women yield a richer understanding of geographies of contemporary settler occupation? In this way, I seek to explore how we can better map the contours of settler state violence through rigorous study of intersections of environmental injustices and colonial legal landscapes as they are forcibly imposed upon Indigenous women’s bodies through sexual violence. In so doing, I posit Indigenous women’s bodies as sacrifice zones, meant to uphold settler states and colonial heteropatriarchy through continued violation. This paper explores this concept with two detailed case studies—police brutality, state-sanctioned reproductive injustices, and femicide targeting Indigenous women and girls in Northern California, and impending sexual violence due to extractive industries in South Dakota, and efforts by Indigenous women survivors to prevent it. This analysis is self-reflexive and based on extended fieldwork and community organizing in both locations, as well as the author’s experience testifying against TransCanada in man camp water permit hearings as a survivor of sex trafficking. These case studies, though seemingly disparate, illustrate how intensely gendered environmental racism is in service of colonial states and structures of power, and why study of sexual violence against Indigenous women must be place-based.

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