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International Interdisciplinary Conference on ‘Intimacy, Violence, and Power’

September 9 at 8:00 am - September 11 at 5:00 pm EDT

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International Interdisciplinary Conference on ‘Intimacy, Violence, and Power’

September 9 at 8:00 am September 11 at 5:00 pm South Africa

The link between intimacy and violence has been highlighted by the #MeToo movement of women who have come out about the sexual violence they have suffered. The theorist John Shotter has pointed out, in his delineation of ‘joint action’, that being ‘in hate’ is as intimate as being ‘in love’. This might go some way towards explaining domestic abuse which often takes place in private. Crucially, the link involves various forms and dimensions of power which enable the commitment and perpetration of violent acts. Whereas public forms of violence are easily identifiable, denounced and sometimes prosecuted, it is not so with those committed in private which evade the normative force of the public eye and where the dynamics of power are often complex and sometimes multi dimensional. This is probably why some rape cases, including some of those associated with the #MeToo movement, get mired in controversy and uncertainty.

Violence in cultural practices is often undertaken in seclusion: initiation rites including circumcision, say, or, more extremely, female genital mutilation. This is true also for violent expressions of public power. An example was South Africa’s apartheid state invading the private sphere of individuals by breaking in on sexual acts it defined as ‘ The increasing deployment of state power in the form of legislations for example against homosexuals and reproductive rights in conservative societies across the world entails similar violence against the private sphere. This has also come to the fore during the lockdowns that have accompanied the COVID 19 pandemic. But violent deployment of power can take less spectacular and more innocuous forms especially in the kinds of private contexts within which sexual abuse occurs. Examples of this would include the power of seduction as well as different forms of psychological manipulation and conversational brutality, the dynamics of which often remain opaque. These can have extreme and far reaching effects because they draw on the perpetrators’ intimate knowledge of their subjects and circumstances as is sometimes dramatized in literary and cinematic works of all genres.

Going beyond the realm of human relationships, it is important also to recognize the impact of violating and disrupting convention; of radical deviations from extant conditions or patterns of stability or generic form such as those which characterize formal uses of language. In this regard, linguistic and epistemological violence remains a vexed issue that manifests across pedagogical, psycho-social and epistemological contexts. Furthermore, the symbolism of violence in its varying forms, remains a topos for fertile interdisciplinary exploration.

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