Steven S. Volk (Oberlin College)
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since activists first denounced as “feminicides” the murders of women and girls occurring with alarming frequency around Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The accumulating, gender-based murders generated a vibrant anti-feminicide movement and captured public interest far beyond the transborder region. Analysis of the murders also ignited heated debates within academic and journalistic communities. A first generation of writers studying the murders largely analyzed them within this gender-based, feminicide framework. More recently, a number of journalists and scholars have challenged that approach, arguing that the death of women in Juárez did not arise from any gender specificity, and that they could only be understood by reference to the more numerous murders of men in the region. These revisionist approaches dismiss those who frame the murders as feminicides as either shoddy researchers or opportunists. In this article, I explore the historiography of these debates and place the revisionist analyses within a larger debate about the utility of empiricist approaches as a primary instrument of social explanation. I suggest that critical theory, in particular feminist analysis, provides a better conceptual tool for understanding the nature and causes of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez.