The Erotics of Corruption: Law, Scandal, and Political Perversion

Publication Year



A provocative retelling of the story of political corruption in the modern period.

In this provocative retelling of the story of political corruption in the modern period, Ruth A. Miller argues that narratives of political corruption rely upon an explicitly pornographic rhetoric and have been instrumental in carving out lawless or exceptional space. Drawing upon an extensive and wide-ranging literature, she examines corruption, the erotic, and legal exceptionalism as they appear in media representations of Saddam Hussein as “corrupt leader,” nineteenth-century political cartoons, Pier Pasolini’s film Salo, Ernst Kantorowicz’s theorization of the body politic, Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of biopolitics, and Achille Mbembe’s discussion of the postcolony. Miller comments on both the erotic nature of the state of exception and colonial or postcolonial manifestations of it, and presents a new voice in ongoing conversations about law, violence, and sexuality in the contemporary world.

Table of Contents


Corruption, Democracy, and the Colony
A Vocabulary of Corruption
Theoretical Framework
An Overview

1. Political Corruption as Sexual Deviance: A Literature Review

The Body Politic
The Developing State and Its Infantile Transgression
Striptease: Political Transparency and Self-Regarding Behavior
Incest, Cannibalism, and Corporate Responsibility

2. Celebrating the Corrupt Leader

Pornography and Testimony
Getting to Know Abdul and Saddam 
Developing State, Developing Star
Body Doubles and Doubled Bodies

3. Condemning the Corrupt System

Biopolitical Space and Totalitarian Space
Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom
Bandits and Bureaucrats
The Portable Torture Nation
Bribery, Nepotism, and Decay
Dehumanizing Bureaucracies


Reviews and endorsements

“…recommended … for professionals working on issues of corruption and eroticism.” — CHOICE

“This beautifully conceived, well-researched book provides a fresh and unique look at the timely topic of corruption. As such, it departs markedly from the current literature. It is rare that one takes a journey into not only areas previously unconsidered but also areas largely unimagined. The subfield of corruption has always struggled with basic concepts, and The Erotics of Corruption plays with that problematic in a totally different way, first by employing discourse analysis, and, second, by situating the narrative within a larger context. Scholars will greatly benefit from the book’s insights and fresh perspective, and it will force them to think more critically about their own approaches.” — Stephen D. Morris, author of Gringolandia: Mexican Identity and Perceptions of the United States

State University of New York Press
Cloth: 9780791474532; Paper: 9780791474549