The Patriarch and the Sovereign: The Malheur Occupations and the Hyper-Masculine Drive for Control

by Courtney Irons

On January 2, 2016, a group of armed protestors seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The occupation followed a long tradition of resistance in western states of federal land management policy, but the members took a stricter approach to federalism than most. The group fully rejected federal sovereignty over the land, and in doing so demonstrated a particularly gendered approach to power and government.

The purpose of this Note is to explore how the occupier’s understanding of federalism relates to theories on masculinity. Drawing on statements made during the course of the occupation, news reports, and testimony during the subsequent legal proceedings, this Note will argue the occupiers’ patriarchal beliefs about masculinity influenced and informed their understanding of federalism with the belief that doing so may help us understand the growing nationalist and extremist views in conservative movements today.

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