Bullying in U.S. Public Culture: Or, Gothic Terror in the Full Light of Day

Roddey Reid

Abstract


This article expands the conventional analysis of bullying and intimidation in U.S. daily life beyond family, household and school dynamics to the workplace, the media and the world of politics. Although a universal problem, bullying enjoys a virulence and prevalence in contemporary U.S. culture virtually unmatched anywhere else in terms of its reach, depth and legitimacy. Unlike in many European nations and Canada bullying is not illegal in the United States, and although a subject of endless commentary in the press it is little studied and consequently little understood as a politics of abject subjecthood consisting in the practice of humiliating others, primarily in terms of stigmatizing gender and sexual stereotypes. What is singular in the current reign of the bully is that the multiple contexts of the return of violent sovereignty in daily life and politics, neoliberal economic policies, and the War on Terror can convert the temporary experience of unwanted acts of aggression into a one of a permanent sense of weakness, self-loathing, and a perpetual fear of potential psychological or physical assaults resulting in political paralysis.

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