Violence, Gender & Subjectivity

Das, Veena. 2008. “Violence, Gender, and Subjectivity.” Annual Review of Anthropology. Vol.37, pp.283-299.

Veena Das  Annual Review of Anthropology2008.37:383-99 DOI:10.1146/annurev.anthro.36.081406.094430

Veena Das

SUMMARY

This is a review that takes a deep look at the relationship of violence, gender and subjectivity found throughout the system of sexualization of the social contract.  The case is made that supports a link between sexual & reproductive violence to the social and cultural idea of order, disorder and violence. Not so much interrupting the norm but actually becoming the norm or becoming what is ordinary/part of the everyday.

Although, this ethnographic record shows the instability within the concept of violence it also determines the potentiality of violence and its social power.  In addition, the term violence itself takes on a new meaning and this review, by securing the terms instability, demonstrates the danger of referring to “something” as violence.

Gender is argued as vital for determining the links from “national to the domestic and empires to colonies” The term itself has evolved so much, instead of opposing sex, gender is mutual and it provides a measure to highlight areas of violence otherwise not known.

Finally, subjectivity or the third term is found throughout the study in reactions to violence and the importance of each experience that is analyzed

THREE MAIN ARGUMENTS

  • When the social contract is sexualized, what happens in terms of our understanding of sexuality and how much of our perception of sexuality is a social construct in relation to the sexualization of the social contract
  • The fragility of the of the constructs that assign women to domestic roles and men to politics is based on social consent that is quite vulnerable to violence
  • How violence as the central theme produces different effects of “emotions and dispositions”

POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONTRACT

  • The obligation that men have to the state/nation is that they should always be prepared to go into battle/war or willing to die for their country
  • Women, in turn, are obligated as citizens to breed the next soldier-“legitimate” children that will eventually go into battle/war and eventually die for their country
  • The nation/state always uncertain about the dangers outside of its borders expect this cycle to continue where sex and war are continual parts of the institution

WAR AND THE HEROIC VIRTUES: THE  IMPERATIVE OF THE COLLECTIVE

  • The idea that war or modern warfare has been “civilized” overtime guarantees that the citizen looks to the state for peace against violence. The legitimization of violence does not end it but merely reallocates it
  • There is a disconnect between the virtues of heroism and what actually takes place or the reality of war
  • Women are now regularly involved in wars and have served as nurses as well as sexual commodities for male soldiers
  • Since the citizen consents to this civilized definition of war a boundary is then created between savage violence and civilized warfare

CIVILIZED VS SAVAGE

Civilized War-rule bound, national masculine, western warfare; United States

Savage War-anarchic, animal like; African Wars

THE SUICIDE BOMBER AND NIHILISTIC VIOLENCE

  • Preemptive strikes concerning War is justified because of the nihilistic nature of the suicide bomber which has made its pathological mark from contemporary Islam
  • The grounds upon which these wars are justified is the idea that they are helping or protecting the women from oppressive governments and groups such as the Taliban of Afghanistan. Yet when the very soldiers that are sent over to the countries in question to protect commit violence against women (civilians) it is referred to as “collateral damage” unfortunate acts but not considered criminal.  The so-called “improving the lives of women” often masks Western support for those engaging in the oppression of women in those very countries

EMBODYING EMPIRE: SEXUALIZED VIOLENCE AND TORTURE

  • Sexualized torture or humiliation of the enemy by “effemination” that was exposed within the pictures that leaked out of Abu Ghraib was carried by men as well as women
  • Within the patriarchal hierarchy of the military even those that are not dominant, in this case women, can claim inclusion by the very embodiment of the sexualized torture of Arab prisoners themselves
  • As observed in lynching as well masculinity is stripped away and with it humanity

THE SOCIAL SAVAGE

  • In war-torn countries the systematic rape of its women dishonors them to the point of suicide and/or being shunned by their family

THE RAPE TRIAL: LAW AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

  • Since women are treated as the property of men rape itself, instead of being considered an offense against a woman’s bodily integrity, it(rape) is considered an offense against the mans or guardians property rights
  • Women are labeled bad or good/virgin or prostitute/women worthy of being raped vs. those that are not
  • Statistics reveal that in most cases of “sexual violence” the perpetrator is known or even intimate with the woman, not a stranger.
  • The question of what is intimate partner violence (IPV) is considered from the home

WHAT IS HOME?

  • Men often times maintain dominion over the house
  • What can be considered a haven and safe place for some can be a place of fear for many women

REMAKING THE EVERYDAY

  • Does time allow people to come to terms with destruction of their social worlds?
  • In addition to the everyday courts or criminal justice system societies that for long periods of time have undergone state sponsored atrocities of violence have got to be able to express themselves outside of the courts
  • Anthropologists have found that despite being able to tell their stories, women could communicate on behalf of their families but could not describe the “sexual violence” inflicted on them
  • Das, considers the ordinary everyday acts of caring in which women engage and may promote healing to much of the trauma

VIOLENCE AND EFFECT

  • Violence with its potential to not only disrupt the ordinary but to become part of the ordinary continues to challenge and engage us as a discipline in our desire to understand
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About Kris Rais

I have decided to start living instead of to merely exist after years of care giving. I am currently working towards my university degree and reaching higher consciousness through my practice of yoga.
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