SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Towards Zero Violence: Putting Gender into a Theory of Violence and Society

Sylvia Walby (City, University of London)

Date: 5 March 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 5 March 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

Type of Event: Seminar

Is violence increasing or decreasing? The UN Sustainable Development Goals aspire to end violence against women and reduce violence in general. According to Pinker, drawing on Elias, violence is decreasing. The new scholarship from women and the Global South has challenged this account, documenting the scale of the violence from the powerful. Too often in social theory, violence has been dispersed (Bourdieu), treated as less important than other forms of power (Žižek), or considered deviant behaviour from the disadvantaged (Merton). Such approaches disguise and underestimate gender inequality. Bourdieu and Žižek are wrong on this issue. Moving the analysis of violence from the margin to the centre of contemporary social science requires rethinking the concept of violence, treating it as an institution parallel in significance to economy, polity and civil society. Is domestic violence better addressed as ‘coercive control’ or as ‘violent crime’?  Is it connected to gendered economic inequalities or to men’s motivation to control? Is it better addressed by increasing the criminalisation of perpetrators of violence or increased specialised welfare support to potential and actual victims? Our recent work in Britain shows the rate of violent crime increasing since the economic crisis, driven by an increase in domestic violent crime and violence against women. As the neoliberal project restructures societies, gendered economic inequalities increase, the resilience of gendered potential victims is reduced, and the rate of violence increases. There are tensions in building a theory of gender-based violence and developing the evidence to test it. Is the political subject women, so measurement should concern only violence against women; or, are men included? This tension is reflected in debates on what to measure: violence against women, violence in general, or gender-disaggregated violence. The answer offered here is to mainstream gender into the concept and measurement of violence and into a theory of society.


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Towards Zero Violence: Putting Gender into a Theory of Violence and Society

Sylvia Walby will be a Professor in the Department of Sociology at City, University of London, and leading a centre on ‘Violence and Society’ from 1 March 2019. She has been a Distinguished Professor of Sociology, UNESCO Chair of Gender Research, and the Director of the Violence and Society UNESCO Centre at Lancaster University, 2005-2019. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and chairs the Sociology Sub-Panel for HEFCE REF. Her books include: Crisis (Polity, 2015); Globalization and Inequalities: Complexity and Contested Modernities (Sage, 2009); The Concept and Measurement of Violence against Women and Men (with colleagues; Policy Press, 2017); Stopping Rape (with colleagues; Policy Press, 2015); and The Future of Feminism (Polity, 2011).

Organiser: Dr Feyzi Ismail

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