The Sexist Microphysics of Power The Alcàsser Case and the Construction of Sexual Terror

Nerea Barjola (Author); Emily Mack (Translator); Silvia Federici (Foreword)


Publisher: AK Press
Format: Book
Binding: pb
Pages: 296
Released: May 7, 2024
ISBN-13: 9781849355506

A groundbreaking feminist text that frames our obsession with true crime as a form of sexual terror.

In 1992, three teenage girls went missing from the small town of Alcàsser in Valencia, Spain while on their way to a nightclub, in a case whose strangeness and brutality continues to draw popular speculation decades later. Feminist theorist Nerea Barjola retraces the high-profile search to find them and the media frenzy of the ensuing trial to explore our cultural fascination with the harm done to women’s bodies. 

The graphic rehearsal of the details in news and media fuels cautionary tales of sexual danger that induce in women a mental map of places they can and cannot go, the activities they dare not do. Rape is not an individual crime but the expropriation of the female body, a threat leveled against a class of potential victims that shifts the burden of staying safe onto their own internalized policing. This, Barjola argues, is the frontline for female transgression, freedom, and resistance.

Offering a feminist take on Giorgio Agamben’s concept of bare life, this riveting case study identifies spaces where women cross beyond social limits—a house, a party, a car—into a place where danger is all but inevitable, where the state of exception turns into the scene of the crime. The Sexist Microphysics of Power builds on Judith Butler’s work on performativity, Michel Foucault’s thinking on the day-to-day operations of power, and Silvia Federici's analysis of the witch hunt to propose a paradigm shift in our understanding of the systemic impact of gender violence and of a culture the relishes in its lurid repetition.

In 2021, the Spanish government awarded the book a national distinction for the significance of its research for social transformation.


Praise for The Sexist Microphysics of Power:

"Seldom does a work of cultural theory force us to revisit an entire universe of evidence as if we had never seen it before. Taking as her starting point the sexual assault and murder of three women in Spain that marked a whole generation in the 1990s, Nerea Barjola conducts a thorough study that will from now on be required reading for anyone interested in the politics of rape and sexual violence."—Paul Preciado, author of Testo Junkie

"This is the great contribution that The Sexist Microphysics of Power makes to the feminist fight against violence ... and against the complicity of the media with institutional sexism ... the book is unique in its examination of the many tricks that journalists use to redirect attention in the crime toward the character of the victim, cruelly using women's fear and the suffering we see around us to denigrate our demands for freedom."—Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch


Nerea Barjola Ramos is a feminist scholar and militant whose work focuses on popular representations of sexual violence. She received her doctorate in Feminisms and Gender from the University of the Basque Country and lives in Bilbao, Spain.

Emily Mack is a translator, teacher, and amateur carpenter active in the feminist struggle and other social movements. Born near Birmingham, England, she is now based in Girona, Catalonia, where she lives, works, and agitates.

Silvia Federici is a feminist activist, teacher, and writer, who in 1972 was among the founders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the Campaign for Wages for Housework in the US and abroad. Her most important work, Caliban and the Witch, has been translated into fourteen languages. She is also the author of Revolution at Point Zero and Re-enchanting the World.

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