This article engages in a critical analysis of recent popular portrayals of women from Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been subjected to violence that has transformed their faces. It specifically takes up the Academy Award-winning 2011 documentary, Saving Face, which features women who have been the targets of acid attacks; and popular media portrayals of Aesha Mohammadzai, an Afghan woman who instantly became famous when she was featured on a 2010 Time magazine cover. More than just critiquing the continued targeting of Muslim women as objects of recuperation, I argue that the circulation of such texts effects the elision of the violences of humanitarian logics, discourses, and projects themselves: violence is characterized as a problem of individual actors, a symptom of a failure to value and adhere to the gender and sexual norms that humanitarianism often presumes and imposes. The article investigates the often-unacknowledged relationship between humanitarianism and US military endeavors, and calls for a new approach to the feminist analysis of images and stories of suffering women that scrutinizes the role of resentment in both humanitarian projects and in common justifications of the US "War on Terror."


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pp. 110-131
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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