Who Do We Think They Are? Transformations in Feminist Knowledge Production Regarding Men Who Have Used Violence in Their Heterosexual Relationships in Canada

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Conners, Deborah E.




This qualitative study explores how the development of increasingly nuanced and diverse knowledges relevant to the reduction and prevention of intimate partner violence (IPV) is affecting theory, service provision and activism in feminist anti-violence movements in Canada. I posit that, in response to the development of these knowledges, shifts in feminist violence against women (VAW) doxa have been following a slow and painful trajectory that is part of, and reflects, struggles within a broader feminist and non-feminist social science scholarship and practice in Anglo North America. Primary research for the project was done in Ontario, Canada, and included interviews with 32 research participants (who work in feminist VAW services, partner abuse response programs, or as counsellors), participant observation, a focus group and an early findings feedback workshop. Using the conceptual framework of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, I bring the interview data and the literature addressing IPV into conversation, identifying and analyzing three sociologically significant encounters which have been important in influencing how feminist VAW theory and practice have unfolded over time. The first encounter encompasses feminist intragroup struggles for recognition related to intersections of the female victim/survivor and male perpetrator conceptual foundation of VAW scholarship and practice with feminist work on racialization, colonialism and postmodern approaches to knowledge production as well as an increasing interest in women’s agency. The second encounter is the development of a debate between feminist VAW scholarship and gender parity scholarship (wherein women and men are claimed to equally engage in violence). The final encounter explored relates to new understandings of the therapeutic possibilities for healing from trauma; knowledges generated in this area are only recently gaining attention in feminist VAW work in relation to its ramifications for male perpetrators of IPV. While the encounters documented here have been experienced by many as polarizing, as conundrums, or even as an impasse, there are also efforts underway to engage with this unfolding. I document the interrelated and intertwined engagements of those involved in the field of work to reduce and prevent intimate partner violence, explicating how and why this transformative period is so difficult for all concerned.


Women's Studies




Carleton University

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