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New graduate course at IRWGS by Lila Abu-Lughod
WMST GR6001y Theoretical Paradigms: Reframing Gender Violence Globally
Monday 4:10pm-6:00pm, 754 Schermerhorn Extension
Over the past couple of decades, violence against women (VAW) and gender-based violence (GBV) have come to prominence as loci for activism throughout the world. Both VAW and GBV regularly garner international media attention and occupy a growing place in international law and global governance. Since 2000 alone there have been more than 25 UN protocols, instruments and conventions directed at its eradication or mitigation. By embedding gendered violence in a complex matrix international norms, legal sanctions, and humanitarian aid, the anti-VAW movement has been able to achieve a powerful international “common sense” for defining, measuring, and attending to violence against women in developing countries, particularly during conflict and in post-conflict situations.
When invoked in the halls of the United Nations and used to shape international policy, the terms violence against women (VAW) and gender-based violence (GBV) are often assumed to have stable meanings; yet they do not. What do different parties mean when they talk of violence against women or of gender-based violence? What is left out when the problem is framed in particular ways, and whose interests are served by such framings? Religion, culture, and ethnicity are often linked to gendered violence with entire groups pathologized. Women in conflict situations are abstracted from their local contexts while the conflicts themselves are insistently localized. The definition of VAW or GBV is narrowed to attacks on bodily integrity, with economic, political and structural forms of violence increasingly excluded from the frames.
This course will explore transnational feminist debates about gender-based violence and examine the critical concepts being developed within the scholarly literature to question this “common sense.” What are the elisions and exclusions in many common-sense understandings of these terms? Can we deepen the ways in which we engage with the manifestations and causes of such violence? We will proceed through close readings of the texts of the key feminist thinkers, researchers, anthropologists and activists who are contributing to the critical analysis of the dynamics and history of this international agenda. We pay special attention to place-based research on the applicability and deployment of particular approaches to gender-based violence as found in human rights work, humanitarianism, philanthrocapitalism, and the proliferating organizations, governmental and nongovernmental, around the world that promote girls’ and women’s rights and freedom from violence. Case studies will focus mostly on the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.
This course fulfills one of the requirements for the graduate certificate at IRWGS but is open to other graduate students in Arts & Sciences.