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A psychosocial exploration of activists’ work against violence against women and girls. ...

A psychosocial exploration of activists’ work against violence against women and girls.

The leader of our strategic initiative in support of organisations working with or going through overwhelming experiences, Dr Milena Stateva, presented at the 2013 British Sociological Association Annual Conference.

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    The violent enigma of gender The violent enigma of gender Presentation Transcript

    • The  Violent  Enigma  of  Gender    Psychosocial  explora/ons  of  violence  against  women  and  girls  and  the  work  of  women  human  rights  defenders  and  their  organisa/ons    A  discussion  paper  by  Dr  Milena  Stateva  and  Dr  Barbara  Williams    Dr Milena StatevaThe Tavistock Institutem.stateva@tavinstitute.orgwww.tavinstitute.orgDr. Barbara WilliamsBureau Kensington Inc, Canadabjwilliams@look.ca
    • This  paper  •  Outlines  ways  in  which  the  problem  of  refusing  violence    can  be  addressed  from  a  psychosocial  and  psychoanaly/c  perspec/ve.  •  Complements  and  ques/ons  exis/ng  studies  based  on  the  no/on  of  an  oppressive  patriarchy.    •  We  do  so  by  exploring  symbolic  dimensions  informed  by  psychosocial  theories.    •  We  use  ‘psychosocial’  (and  psychoanaly/c)  in  the  broad  sense  of  what  cons/tutes  this  field.  •  We  used  in  the  process  of  explora/on  our  own  experiences  of  working  together.  
    • The  ques6ons  we  asked  ourselves  •  What  is  ‘ac/on’  in  the  area  of  violence  against  women?    •  If  we  formulate  the  ac/on  of  women  human  rights  defenders  as  a  labour  of  care,  what  can  we  learn  from  interpreta/ons  of  gender  and  gender  discourse?  –  Historical  and  sociological  perspec/ves?  –  Psychosocial  and  psychoanaly/c  theorising  of  gender?  –  What  is  the  discursive  func/on  women  human  rights  defenders  enact  in  re/fusing  violence  and  asser/ng  care?  •  How  can  organisa/ons  that  support  women  human  rights  defenders  become  performa/ve  and  symbolic  loci  of  love  and  intersubjec/vity?  
    • What  is  ‘ac6on’  in  the  area  of  violence  against  women?  •  Ac/on  is  not  simply  a  product  of  any  gathering  of  people  together  nor  necessarily  their  inten/on.    •  It  is  a  symbolic,  rela/onal  and  communica/ve  ac/vity.  •  Following  Arendt’s  theory  of  praxis,    it  can  be  said  that  ac/on  takes  place  in  a  space  where  people  can  appear  as  poli/cal  subjects  and  where  they  can  think  together.    •  In  this  sense,  ac/on  is  not  necessarily  a  fight  or  a  rebellion.    •  It  may  well  be  a  resistance  to  systemic  injus/ces  through  care  –  care  for  oneself,  care  for  other  women,  care  for  the  rela/onships  between  people,  care  for  peace,  care  for  the  environment  and  care  for  the  future.  Being  poli/cal  in  this  way,  care  can  be  an  ac/on  and  we  will  explore  its  components  below.  
    • Historical  and  sociological  perspec6ves  •  Following  Joan  ScoR’s  work,  we  propose  a  cri/cal  distance  from  the  gender-­‐mainstreaming  inherent  in  the  1995  UN  Conference  on  Women  and  the  NGO  deployments  of  gender.      •  A  cri/cal  ethics  of  care  ‘regards  all  people  as  embedded  in  networks  of  rela=onships.  Rela=ve  powers,  degrees  of  agency,  and  moral  responsibili=es  are  mediated  through  these  rela=onships’  (Robinson,  2011:81).    •  Emphasises  ‘responsibility  and  responsiveness  to  others  as  prac=ce  of  contemporary  ci=zenship’.  
    • Psychosocial  &  psychoanaly6c  theorising  of  gender    •  Gender  as  a  ‘floa=ng  signifier’  that  enacts  and  relies  on  spli`ng.    •  Gender  is  not  ‘achieved’  through  conscious  decidability  but  must  be  ‘decided’  none  the  less  to  ‘seRle’  the  trauma/c  nature  of  becoming  a  self.      •  And  further,  that  this  ‘becoming’  ‘always  occurs  in  the  context  of  a  rela=on  and  yet  is  an  unconscious  registra=on  of  otherness’  (Gozlan,  2011,  p.1).    
    • •  Gender  iden/ty  is  situated  in  a  landscape  of  turbulent  emo/ons.    •  They  are  born  by  the  original  trauma  of  birth,  which  is  experienced  by  the  baby  as  annihila/on  and  thus  paradoxically  as  death.  •  The  process  of  dealing  with  this  primordial  trauma/c  experience  is  regulated  through  the  (m)other’s  ability  to  hold,  contain  and  reverie.  •  These  processes  of  interac/ons  and  needs  for  containment  are  re-­‐enacted  throughout  life  and  provide  a  useful  reference  understanding  emo/onal  and  psychic  exchanges  between  adults  and  their  own  babies,  between  adults,  between  adults  and  groupings,  including  organisa/ons  and  communi/es.      •  And  not  simply  the  task  of  ‘mothering’.  Psychosocial  &  psychoanaly6c  theorising  of  gender    
    • •  There  are  very  few  social  and  cultural  mechanisms  that  can  support  and  care  for  children  and  later  adults  in  living  with  and  benefi/ng  from  the  uncertainty  and  complexity  of  their  subjec/ve  worlds.    •  The  historically  developed  binary  division  of  genders  as  the  organising  principle  of  fashioning  a  self  on  a  societal  scale  trauma/zes  iden//es,  rigidifies  social  roles  and  has  tended  to  relegate  and  denigrate  ‘care’  to  women’s  work.    •  The  consequences  might  be  considered  a  prime  star/ng  point  for  re/thinking  and  understanding  the  prevailing  gender-­‐based  violence.        Psychosocial  &  psychoanaly6c  theorising  of  gender    
    • If  the  trauma=c  uncertainty  of  gender  is  its  condi=on,  in  what  way  can  refusal  of  its  embodied  violence  and  viola=on  against  women  and  a  re-­‐imaging  of  care  become  possible  -­‐  a  care  which  is  not  patronising  nor  puJng  women  in  a  vulnerable  posi=on  to  be  exploited  in  this  capacity?  
    • An6gone  •  Our  star/ng  point  for  exploring  the  refusal  of  violence,  relates  to  contemporary  Lacanian  poli/cal  and  feminist  theorists.    •  Turn  to  the  figure  of  An/gone:  she  is  viewed  as  the  image  of  ‘woman’,  who  breaks  the  spell  of  the  ‘father’s’  ‘legacy  of  ra/onalism,  rule  or  governmentality,  or  hierarchical,  naturalized  patriarchal  power’.    •  An/gone  was  the  daughter  of  Oedipus  and  Jocasta,  best  known  through  the  story  by  Sophocles:  upon  the  death  of  one  of  her  brothers,  considered  a  betrayer  by  Creon  (king  acer  the  death  of  Oedipus  as  his  brother),  An/gone  refuses  to  accept  her  uncle’s  decree  that  her  brother  not  receive  burial  rights.  She  defies  her  uncle,  claims  a  rela/onal  impera/ve,  is  imprisoned  and  dies  at  her  own  hand.  
    • An6gone’s  Claim  •  An/gone  is  an  alterna/ve  to  Oedipus,  ‘a  bearer  of  true  feeling  possessed  of  a  true  ethical  compass,  powerfully  disobedient  to  tyranny,  tone  deaf  to  imposi/onal  law.    She  represents  the  an/-­‐patriarchal  devotee  of  the  natal  over  conjugal  family  form;  a  great  lamenter  and  lover  of  the  equal  brother  whom  she  grieves  and  buries  at  no  small  risk  to  herself’.      •  The  Oedipus  story  is  based  on  a  collusion  in  which  everyone  is  ‘turning  a  blind  eye’  to  what  is  implicitly  known  –  collusion  to  go  with  the  flow  of  what  is  pre-­‐determined  by  ‘des/ny’  (Steiner,  1985;  1990).    This  collusion  is  re-­‐enacted  societally  due  to  organising  no/ons  of  self  and  iden/ty  around  the  figure  of  Oedipus.      •  By  challenging  the  no/on  of  des/ny,    feminist  authors  provoke  and  offer  an  alterna/ve  through  An/gone’s  story:  a  re-­‐union  rather  than  conflict,  based  on  what  Butler  calls  ‘kinship  between  life  and  death’  as  a  basis  for  individual  iden/ty  and  ac/on  that  are  grounded  in  an  ethics  of  care.  
    • An6gone’s  symbolism  •  Historically,  there  has  been  a  resistance  to  and  repression  of  An/gone’s  claim  –  the  claim  of  the  unconven/onal,  the  revolu/onary  yet  non-­‐violent  (although  admiRedly  self-­‐destruc/ve  as  An/gone  hangs  herself).  This  resistance  serves  to  maintain  a  world  that  is  based  on  the  impossible  to  resolve  Oedipal  conflict,  the  collusion  surrounding  it  and  the  prohibi/on  on  challenging  des/ny.    •  Through  the  no/ons  of  permeability  and  interdependency,  object  rela/ons  theory  offers  a  body  of  work  that  can  further  flesh  out  this  mode  of  being  in  Otherness.  This  is  the  model  of  a  femininity  that  is  a  part  of  an  ocen  repressed  maleness  too  –  the  capacity  to  contain  and  to  be  contained.  It  is  formed  in  the  very  beginning  of  the  human  life  in  each  one  of  us  and  cons/tutes  a  basis  for  all  human  and  social  rela/ons.  
    • What  is  the  discursive  func6on  women  human  rights  defenders  enact  in  re/fusing  violence  and  asser6ng  care?    •  An/gone’s  mode  of  being  is  embodied  today  by  many  women  human  rights  defenders’  work  to  undermine  a  predominantly  phallocra/c  order  and  culture.    •  They  do  this  by  endeavouring  to  change  ways  of  thinking,  behaving,  rela/ng  and  ac/ng  of  individuals  and  groups.      •  Ocen  however  they  themselves  are  subject  to  effects  of  modernity  and  late  modernity:  focus  on  ra/onality  and  effec/veness,  cause-­‐and-­‐effect/linear  reasoning,  resis/ve  of  unconscious  processes  and  all  the  perils  of  a  ‘bureaucra/sed  management’.    
    • The  struggling  An6gone  •  This  may  seem  inevitable  in  a  neo-­‐liberal  context  in  which  values  are  driven  by  market,  and  ac/ons  by  funding.  •  The  effects  of  bureaucra/c  principles  of  efficiency  and  objec/vity  allow  for  liRle  aRen/on  to  the  power  imbalances  involved  in  decision  making  and  goal  se`ng.      •  A  policy-­‐making  and  organisa/onal  cultures  that  learn  from  and  incorporates  func/ons  such  as  love  (Levinas),  holding  (WinnicoR),  reverie  (Bion),  and  repara/on  (Klein)  offer  an  alterna/ve  to  the  contemporary  rather  narrow  tac/cal  ways  of  tackling  complex  social  problems.  
    •    Women  human  rights  defenders’  organisa=ons  as  performa=ve  and  symbolic  loci  of  love,  intersubjec=vity,  reverie  and  containment  
    • The  trouble  with  love  •  The  ways  we  experience  love  are  important  because  they  are  an  ‘intensifica=on  of  the  powers  of  the  inten=onal  object  to  shape  subjec=ve  experience  in  novel  ways’  by  direc/ng  the  inward  outwards,  the  subjec/ve  towards  the  social  realm.    •  As  such  it  is  the  very  opposite  and  perhaps  a  countervailing  power  to  the  workings  of  suffering  seen  as  ‘intensifica=on  of  the  subjec=ve  with  a  corresponding  diminu=on  of  the  objec=ve  and  the  non-­‐self’  (Benson,  2001:161).    •  Love,  alongside  solidarity,  is  a  self-­‐transcending  ideal  ‘which  requires  that  one  should  be  for  the  well-­‐being  of  others’  (ibid:173).    
    •  Re/valuing  Intersubjec6vity    •  Such  a  project  of  reworking  and  rethinking  calls  for  reconsidering  as  a  first  step  the  status  of    the  subject.    •  This  re-­‐thinking  happens  in  the  light  of  our  inter-­‐relatedness  –  Fineman  (2008),  Butler  (2004),  Bergoffen    (2003)  and  Staudigl  (2004;  2010).    •  Of  par/cular  importance  is  Levinas’  work,  who  delves  deeply  into  the  origins  of  our  humanity  to  find  at  its  core  a  primordial  vulnerability  and  derives  from  there  a  new  ‘assump/on  of  responsibility’  in  the  face-­‐to-­‐face  encounter  to  reinvent  ethics,  but  as  a  ‘first  philosophy’.    
    • Intersubjec6vity  in  Levinas’  work  •  The  face-­‐to-­‐face  encounter  is  experienced  as  being  called  by  and  responding  to  another,  a  primordial  hospitality  that  is  phenomenologically  the  basic  feature  of  our  inter-­‐relatedness.    •  It  stems  from  recognising  vulnerability  -­‐  in  hospitality  we  respond  to  the  call  of  the  other’s  vulnerability  and  at  the  same  /me  make  ourselves  vulnerable.    •  Hospitality  thus  originates  in  an  eros  that  differs  from  possession  and  power  and  is  a  ‘prototype’  of  the  encounter  with  the  radical  alterity  of  the  other  person.  
    • Object  rela6ons  and  intersubjec6vity  •  Containment  (Klein)  and  holding  (WinnicoR):  a  nurturing,  caring,  and  uncondi/onal  func/on  of  the  mother.  •  The  transi/onal  space:  an  addi/onal  independent  space  within  the  individual  mental  life:  ‘It  is  in  the  space  between  inner  and  outer  world,  which  is  also  the  space  between  people  […]that  in=mate  rela=onships  and  crea=vity  occur’.  •  Reverie  (Bion):  the  capacity  to  sense  (and  make  sense  of)  what  is  going  inside  in  individual  being  taken  care  of.  It  is  a  specific  capacity  to  imagine  what  is  going  in  the  inner  world  of  another  human  being.  
    •  Love  as  the  core  of  ethics  of  care    •  Extension  of  the  ‘mothering  func/on’  to  society  –  to  a  collec/ve  responsiveness  to  the  unconscious  developmental  needs  of  one  another  and  society  -­‐  of  the  care  system  to  its  members,  of  the  governing  structures  to  its  people  and  the  organisa/ons  it  governs.    •  Social  ins/tu/ons  as    structured  to  provide  a  necessary  but  frequently  ineffec/ve  defence  against  primi/ve  anxie/es  which  the  work  itself  provokes    (Menzies  Lyth,  1986).    •  Crea/ng  structures,  systems  and  prac/ces  of  thinking,  ac/ng  and  caring  which  act  in  ways  to  mi/gate  the  violence  which  flows  from  en/gendered  anxie/es  and  from  women  human  rights  defenders’  claims  against  violence.    
    • Women’s  rights  organisa6ons  as  loci  of  love  and  intersubjec6vity    •  Society  has  built  a  range  of  structures  to  model  care,  holding  and  containment  as  the  challenges  get  increasingly  difficult  to  cope  with  by  individuals  and  their  immediate  surrounding.    •  Very  ocen,  however,  organiza/onal  structures  themselves  become  the  source  of  secondary  anxie/es  producing  defences  that  impede  their  own  containing  func/oning.    •  This  may  be  par/cularly  facilitated  by  the  drive  for  efficiency  and  the  consequent  over-­‐ra/onalis/c  bureaucra/za/on  embedded  in  the  modernity  project  
    •  Enabling  the  body  of  the  organisa6on      •  Develop  on-­‐going  learning  opportuni/es  that  explore  collec/ve  psychical,  social  and  poli/cal  determinants  of  violence  against  women  and  its  effects  on  ac/vists.    •  Develop  organisa/onal  structures  as  a  matrix  type  organisa/on,  with  fluid  processes  and  hierarchy  •  Leadership  in  which  ‘authority’  acts  as  a  containment  rather  than  a  control.    •  Ensure  that  self-­‐care  is  regularised  and  sustained.    •  Develop  systema/c  means  to  review  and  re/think  organisa/onal  cultures  which  work  in  a  produc/ve  way  with  the  dynamics  of  compe//on,  envy,  and  dysfunc/onal  aggressions.