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Troubling Violence

Troubling Violence: A Performance Project

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Troubling Violence
    Book Description:

    Troubling Violence: A Performance Projectfollows the collaboration between performance studies professor M. Heather Carver and ethnographic folklorist Elaine J. Lawless. The book traces the creative development of a performance troupe in which women take the stage to narrate true, harrowing experiences of domestic violence and then invite audience members to discuss the tales. Similar to the performances, the book presents real-life narratives as a means of heightening social awareness and dialogue about intimate partner violence.

    "Troubling violence" refers not only to the cultures in our society that are "troubling," but also to the authors' intent to "trouble" perceptions that enforce social, cultural, legal, and religious attitudes that perpetuate abuse against women. Performance, this book argues, enhances ethnographic research and writing by allowing ethnographers to approach both their field studies and their ethnographic writing as performance. The book also demonstrates how ethnography enhances the study of performance. The authors discuss the development of the Troubling Violence Performance Project in conjunction with their own "performances" within the academy.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-347-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[ix])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [x]-2)
  3. The Pre-Show
    (pp. 3-15)

    HEATHER(looking up from her notebook)This book is about the journey that we have taken together to challenge violence against women in their homes. We formed the Troubling Violence Performance Project to introduce a way of communicating about the complexities of intimate partner violence. We have continually been intrigued by the ways in which our academic disciplines—folklore and performance studies—have spoken to each other through our personal, scholarly, and artistic endeavors as we tell the story of the Troubling Violence Performance Project. Some of the tale is revealed through memory and some through recording, while other projects...

  4. Backdrop
    (pp. 16-18)

    This book is about violence. It is about the way we have researched partnership violence and learned to recognize the pain of abuse in the eyes of women in every sector of our lives. We see it in the eyes of our students, our mothers, our sisters, our friends.

    Together we have formed a performance troupe that travels to venues in the campus and in the community, to conferences and retreat centers. All the performers in this troupe are students who work with us in our academic worlds. They perform monologues, stories of women and men who live with and...

  5. Act I

    • The Academic Stage
      (pp. 21-28)

      ELAINE Unless we take a different approach to our ethnographic projects in the fields of folklore and anthropology, it is quite possible that we will continue to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, and find ourselves creating wider and wider circles in the sand. Since James Clifford and George Marcus and Ruth Behar and Deborah Gordon created new guideposts for the work of ethnography as well as how we might better “write culture,” we have attempted to refine some of their main points by this method or that without actually offering new evidence about how to improve on the enterprise....

    • Character Development
      (pp. 29-34)

      ELAINE Sometime in 2002, we began to talk about creating an activist performance troupe that would perform the narratives I collected from battered women living in a shelter for my book,Women Escaping Violence. Since doing the ethnographic field research for that book, working in the shelter, and getting the work published, I had been feeling that the academic production of a book was insufficient in terms of my commitment to working against the abuse and violence many women encounter every day in the supposed safety of their own homes from men who profess to love them. Heather’s previous work...

    • First Run
      (pp. 35-43)

      HEATHER Our first performance was for the recently organized Campus Task Force against Domestic/Partner Violence.

      ELAINE Our campus has a strong domestic violence component in the law school, where Professor Mary Beck teaches third-year law students to work with women who are trying to prosecute their abusers, get orders of protection, get custody of their kids, and get child support.

      HEATHER Others on the task force such as Professor Fran Danis teach domestic violence components in their courses. Some work in the dormitories with college men and women. The athletic department is represented on the task force, as are campus...

    • Breaking the Fourth Wall
      (pp. 44-59)

      HEATHER In this part of our book performance, I engage in performative writing to introduce the Troubling Violence Performance Project, a troupe that seeks to open lines of communication about issues of domestic violence through performance of personal narratives. Experimental in nature, this essay seeks to show how story is used to educate audiences about societal issues. Neither the stories of abuse nor the description of our work is polished or neat, and there are certainly no tidy endings.

      I have struggled with the ways in which to tell the story of the troupe, for the hundreds of performances in...

    • Performing Violence
      (pp. 60-102)

      ELAINE All right. What you’re saying reminds me of our first public performance at my national conference. No longer were we on our own campus, talking to women on the Violence against Women Committee; we went public there to my colleagues, some of whom, I knew, might be opposed to what we were doing. Do you remember how Sadie responded to that performance?

      HEATHER Yes—I remember how flustered she was to do that performance at a conference, so much different from her previous dramatic work, performing these real women’s narratives for an academic audience quite new to her. She...

  6. Act II

    • Writing the Body
      (pp. 105-106)

      HEATHER I am feeling bossy right now.

      Sometimes I get bossy.

      Elaine lets me.

      I hope it isn’t too much.

      ELAINE looks up and addresses the audience.

      ELAINE(pointing to Heather)“Write about your body,” she says. Hmmm . . .

      HEATHER looks up from her notebook, laughs, and tries to defend herself to the audience.

      HEATHER But she wanted a prompt!

      ELAINE returns to her notebook.

      HEATHER I like to just write and fill up the page. I like to have conversations on the page. I don’t always think about the words that follow.[gestures to ELAINE]But she’s...

    • Violence against Our Bodies
      (pp. 107-115)

      ELAINE The way our bodies are violated is without a doubt a “troubling” kind of violence, especially for women. Heather and I talk a lot about how we sandwich writing and teaching, thinking and reading, between children’s Halloween costumes and parades, softball games, gymnastics meets, finding money for new uniforms, shoes, clothes, tournaments, and all the stuff that we do as mothers and what we do as partners and spouses. It’s all good, we agree, it’s just sometimes too much when it’s added onto or done in conjunction with faculty meetings; student dissertations and defenses; meetings, meetings, and more meetings;...

    • Violence at Home
      (pp. 116-131)

      ELAINE At our house, as the only girl, I knew that certainly did not translate into “special.” It meant there was no way I could get my license when I turned sixteen. It meant there was no way I could go cruising in cars with my friends. It meant there was no way I could date boys before my eighteenth birthday. I couldn’t wear shorts or go to dances. If I did, my father was convinced I would be “married and ruint” before I turned sixteen. Even with all the rules and with him watching me like a hawk, my...

    • Curtain Call
      (pp. 132-134)

      ELAINE By ten o’clock the morning after we returned from our writing retreat, Heather was already calling me.

      HEATHER(laughing)“Do you miss me yet? Are you writing?”

      ELAINE That was the message she left on the cell phone I couldn’t find.

      Writing already. I had barely dragged myself out of bed five minutes before the phone rang, and I was already a bit out of sorts helping my youngest daughter locate the navy blue softball socks she needed for today’s games at twelve, three, and six o’clock.

      “They were right here!” she bellowed, impatient and put out. “We need...

    • A Courtroom Scene
      (pp. 135-141)

      ELAINE For weeks I sat in on the court sessions every day. Judge Marshall is there to grant or not grant protection to women whose body language assaults me as I am sitting alone, listening, a covert subject, trying to hear the “he said/she said” firsthand. I am not prepared for these scenes. Even working at the shelter, I was removed from the immediacy of this confrontational setting; it feels obscene, the private loosed in a public space for all to see and hear. I feel embarrassed for them. I can feel how thin my own skin is here. I...

    • A Conference Scene
      (pp. 142-144)

      CARRIE SMYTHE Hello, I’m Carrie Smythe. I am the director of the state Coalition against Domestic Violence, which is located in the capital city. We work with the state government, lobbying for battered women’s rights, and we oversee all sixty-three state shelters for battered women. I am also a councilwoman for this town. I know most of you know me—very well.[She laughs a bit as though she knows they think she’s a bit of a pain.]Although I know you are expecting a polished speech up here today during this really critical conference of lawyers, teachers, judges, lawmakers,...

    • Life, with No Chance
      (pp. 145-150)

      ELAINE Uh, yes, we’re Elaine Lawless and Heather Carver, we have an appointment at one o’clock to talk with a prisoner, Rose Williams.

      VOICE Say your names again.

      In unison, both women speak their names at once, then realize only one should speak.

      HEATHER(speaking slowly)Elaine Lawless and Heather Carver. We have an appointment.

      No response. Loud buzzer off to the side. Women stand there a bit perplexed.

      HEATHER Oh, I think that means this gate has been unlocked.

      She pushes hesitantly on the iron gate in front of them; it opens with a groan; as soon as she...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-158)