Gender overdetermination and resistance: The case of criminalised women

Susan Sered, Maureen Norton-Hawk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This article explores the notion of gender overdetermination in relation to a community of criminalised women in Massachusetts. Re-examining classic writings on overdetermination by Louis Althusser, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre, we query the notion of gender overdetermination and posit it as an effective lens for thinking about the persistence of gender as a social construct. The combination of the structural processes of overdetermination with the discursive and ideological power of overdetermination complicates and reduces possibilities and effectiveness of sustained acts of resistance. The criminalised women of our study permanently inhabit a space in which aetiology, practice, discipline and interpretation are all hyper-gendered, meaning that acts of resistance are construed as more evidence of inescapable and essential gender identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-333
Number of pages17
JournalFeminist Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project has been approved by Suffolk University IRB, Massachusetts Board of Parole, and by directors of the co-operating facilities. Funding was provided by a Suffolk University summer research stipend and the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights. Ashley Terhune, Ellesse Akre, and Joanna Prager are thanked for their contributions to this project.


  • Massachusetts
  • criminalisation
  • gender
  • overdetermination
  • women in penal system


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