While the contemporary movement against sexual and domestic violence has roots in radical, feminist theory and anti-state, community-based modes of resistance, over the past several decades, advocates and activists have increasingly turned to corporations and the state for support through the non-profit, prison, and medical industrial complexes. This acceptance of state-centered solutions to the issues of sexual and domestic violence raises important questions about the transformative potential of the antiviolence movement as well as advocates’ and activists’ accountability to the communities where we do our work. In particular, the movement’s easy alignment with the neoliberal state and its connection to modern feminist thought raise concerns about the extent to which anti-violence efforts are tainted by – and ultimately reproduce – the normative ways of being, doing, and thinking that enable sexual and domestic violence to continue within our society.
Drawing upon the teachings of intersectionality and queer theories, this thesis seeks to trouble normativity within the anti-violence movement in order to create greater space for the recognition of important differences between victims/survivors of violence in relation to multiple systems of power (e.g. racism, classism, ableism, transphobia, homo/queerphobia) and also to salvage the transformative potential of the anti-violence movement from the throes of a neoliberal state. By way of intersectional, queer analyses, this thesis identifies and responds to the fundamental theoretical and practical concerns distressing the anti-violence movement that place it in a precarious situation defined by isolation from other social justice movements, co-optation by the neoliberal state, and multiple forms of normativity that make personal and social transformation less feasible. This thesis also offers useful interventions, including both theoretical shifts and strategic reformations, that advocates and activists can utilize to overcome current limitations plaguing the anti-violence movement.
Key words: Activism; Advocacy; Domestic Violence; Queer Theory; Sexual Violence; Social Justice;