techno-promiscuities: speculative currency and digital sexuality

Qandeel [Baloch]’s life and death provide a sober reading of the biopolitical and necropolitical management of femininity that first propelled her to stardom and then punished her by death. Qandeel’s broken English, her allegedly “fake” American accent and her insistent invitation to “luk” made her a national laughing stock. For some, her sexual assertiveness and feminist agency were seen as too deranged and sinful, in need of respectable feminism, medicalized therapy, or masculinized Islamic salvation. Qandeel was branded a “prostitute, a filthy dirty woman, a fornicator, and a non-Muslim.”[1] For many, including myself, she was and is the rebel, gutsy feminist provocateur, and Third World feminist we are looking for.[2] In a world where English is a postcolonial barometer of civilizational modernity, censorship a patriarchal pastime, and sexual morality a sham of honor, Qandeel was breaking many rules. With marriage, monogamy and morality being central features of women’s honor, feminist respectability, and postcolonial nationhood, Qandeel was marked as a figure of feminine failure and a public threat. . . .

Qandeel’s life and death necessitate a rethinking of the entanglements of coloniality, economic value, racialized ethnicity, and how sexuality and sexual violence are at the center of colonial legacies and postcolonial nation-making. Qandeel challenged the terms through which women become valuable assets by changing the metrics of value. She was commodified as a bad woman, seen as a silly and stupid social media user, and enjoyed as a public spectacle and national fetish. She became ungovernable when she exposed the failure of hegemonic masculinity and religious authority. If we must use the word “honor” for the death of Qandeel, then I argue that she was murdered in honor of hegemonic masculinity, hegemonic femininity, and hegemonic nationhood. Men’s dishonor can be repaired and recuperated often while women’s dishonor requires death. If honor is how female and feminine bodies become property and men are the managers of that property, then Qandeel was condemned to death when she became unmanageable as an investment gone wrong, investment gone wild. Qandeel Baloch exposes how sexual digital economies are imbricated with biopower and necropower as she seduced us precisely because her seductions worked to expose and mock men’s honor, hegemonic masculinity, and neatly defined ethno-racial categories.”

Qandeel Baloch, 2016

Excerpt from Shroff, Sara. 2021. “bold women, bad assets:  honour, property and techno-promiscuities.” Feminist Review 128: 62–78. DOI: 10.1177/01417789211016438. Emphasis and picture of Qandeel in 2016 added.

[1] Aziz, S., 2016. The murder of Qandeel Baloch lifts the lid on misogyny in Pakistan. The Globe and Mail, 18 July. Available at: [last accessed 28 January 2020].

[2] No Country for Bold Women, 2016. About: a digital wall of shame of the media. No Country for Bold Women, 19 July. Available at: [last accessed 28 January 2020]

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