CONFERENCE REPORT: Gendered Violence, Bristol (23-25 Nov 2011)

Conference Report: Maintaining a public profile and engaging with the research community whilst still being a novice researcher

by Jenna Murray de López, November 2011

Once we are initiated into the world of post graduate study, research and academia part of our learning and opportunities arise via the networking we do at conferences, symposiums and workshops outside of our own departments. This post has been written as a reflective piece and a report of a conference I am presenting at this week in Bristol, UK – Gendered Violence International Conference (www.genderedviolence.com ). As well as linking gendered violence debates to our global blog theme of researching security, I also want to draw attention to the importance of fledgling researchers and academics to engage in conference activity from the outset – as both a method to bust the ivory tower myths of academia and a way of building confidence in your work and learning to argue your standpoint.

Background to the Conference

Timed to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 25th November 2011, this conference is concerned with promoting cross-disciplinary and cross-sector debate about the causes and prevention of gendered violence and aims to provide a forum in which dialogue between academics, practitioners, policy makers and grass roots organisations can develop.

Highlights and Main Points of the Conference

The Gendered Violence Conference was a mixture of academic speakers, activists and professionals who work with women in various contexts. There is always a great challenge for the academic or researcher to put their work into accessible language, free of jargon and with meaning in a wider context. I find that having a tradition in qualitative methods and ethnography by presenting (as much as is possible) the voices of the people whom I research with I am already breaking down barriers that allow me to publicly engage with my research. The challenge is to do this without being reductionist and shying away from the complex theories that inform our work and approaches.

Although titled the Gendered Violence International Conference there was a strong emphasis on women and the different forms of violence they are subjected to in the domestic context, sex work, human trafficking. The themes were opened up by the international streams which included my own work on Obstetric Violence in Mexico, Women Survivors of gender violence in Chile, FGM and migrant communities in the EU and various global speakers on the violence and performance of masculinity (see website for more details on all of these papers).

There was an emphasis at the conference on looking for solutions to tackling gendered violence and some good discussion was achieved throughout the three days.

Questions in relation to Researching Security

Apart from the benefits mentioned above, conferences are a good place to think and test new ideas out of the direct context of your own research. This week has made me think of how gendered violence is understood in terms of questions of global security, some of the issues I have begun to think about are as follows (any comments on these questions would be appreciated):

  • How are questions of security troubled by complexities of gendered violence in cultural contexts?
  • Does gendered violence (both in masculine and feminine terms) become lost in macro political economic analysis, or only present if a feminist or queer theory analysis is used?
  • Does State sponsored violence reinforce the practice and gendered violence, or does it work towards challenging it? This question has arisen because my paper focused on how an analysis of Obstetric Violence represents the attitudes to and practice of violence in the society at large – both in terms of State and Non-State. In other words do wider accepted forms of State sponsored violence normalise violence in other environments, or vice versa?
  • Can we understand female perpetrators of violent acts via the scope of Structural Violence? Or does that assume that females are not capable of being violent unless conditioned to do so by state apparatus?
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