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Violence and society: Introduction to an emerging field of sociology

Walby, S. (2013). “Violence and society: Introduction to an emerging field of sociology.” Current Sociology 61(2): 95-111.
The analysis of violence is an important part of sociology. While it has sometimes been pushed to the margins of sociology, nevertheless, violence emerges repeatedly in the analysis of both everyday life and momentous social change; interpersonal relations and crime; governance and resistance; relations between states, north and south; and multiple varieties of modernity. New ways of making violence visible unsettle old notions of the nature and direction of violence; challenging assumptions that the disadvantaged are more violent than the powerful; and that modernity is increasingly less violent. The new research on violence against women and minorities and in the global South makes a powerful case for the inclusion of violence as a core issue in sociology. This article introduces the articles in this monograph issue of Current Sociology, situating them in a new paradigm of “violence and society”. The articles identify the specificities of violence, its non-reducibility to state, culture and biology, while outlining the interconnections within this emerging field.

Intersectionality and the Quality of the Gender Equality Architecture.

Walby, S., J. Armstrong, et al. (2012). “Intersectionality and the Quality of the Gender Equality Architecture.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society 19(4): 446-481.
The restructuring of the equality architecture in Britain is analyzed for its implications for the theory and practice of intersectionality. Going beyond McCall and Hancock, different approaches to the intersection of multiple inequalities are identified and investigated for their utility in the theory and practice of equality in the context of multiple intersecting equalities. In particular, the preference for “mutual constitution” rather than “mutual shaping” is interrogated. Several definitions of and several criteria of quality of the equality architecture are identified, drawing on a discussion of the literature. It is found that while restructuring of the British equality architecture increased its quality in some aspects, by widening its coverage of multiple inequalities and policy domains, in other aspects it reduced it, notably in its resources. The findings vary according to the definition of the equality architecture deployed. Conclusions for the theory and practice of intersectionality are drawn. The prioritization of “mutual constitution” in theory and practice is found to be flawed; “mutual shaping” is offered as a more successful approach.

Is the Knowledge Society Gendered?

Walby, S. (2011). “Is the Knowledge Society Gendered?” Gender, Work and Organization 18(1): 1-29.
The article comprehensively reviews the theoretical and empirical work on gender and the knowledge society and introduces the articles of the special issue. Three ways in which the knowledge society and economy are gendered are distinguished: the gendering of human capital; the gendering of networks and the gendering of the definitions of the knowledge society. Using data from the Labour Force Survey, an original analysis of the gendering of the UK knowledge economy is presented. It finds that the choice of definition of the knowledge economy makes a difference to its gender composition: the more centred on technology and fixed capital, the more masculine, the more centred on human capital, the more gender balanced. The knowledge economy provides better work and conditions. Gender gaps are narrower in the knowledge economy than the overall economy: occupational hierarchies are narrowed to women’s advantage, while differences in work temporalities are narrowed to men’s advantage.

Human Security Report 2013: The Decline in Global Violence

Human Security Report Project (2013). Human Security Report 2013: The Decline in Global Violence: Evidence, Explanation, and Contestation. Vancouver. http://www.hsrgroup.org/docs/Publications/HSR2013/HSRP_Report_2013_140226_Web.pdf

During the past decade, an increasing number of studies have made the case that levels of violence around the world have declined. Few have made much impact outside the research community; Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is a major exception.

Published in 2011, Better Angels’ central argument made over some 700 densely argued pages of text, supported by 70 pages of footnotes is that there has been an extraordinary but little-recognized, long-term worldwide reduction in all forms of violence; one that stretches back at least to 10,000 BCE. Better Angels has received high praise for its extraordinary scope, its originality, and the breadth and depth of its scholarship. It is engagingly written, powerfully argued, and its claims are supported by a mass of statistical evidence. It has also generated considerable skepticism and in some cases outright hostility.

Part I of this Report discusses the central theses of Better Angels and examines the major claims of its critics. Part II presents updated statistics on armed conflicts around the world since the end of World War II, plus post-Cold War trends in assaults on civilians and conflicts that do not involve governments.

Informal Institutions, Institutional Change, and Gender Equality

Waylen, G. (2013). “Informal Institutions, Institutional Change, and Gender Equality.” Political Research Quarterly.
This paper makes two claims: insights from gender research improve understandings of informal institutions and institutional change, and studying informal institutions helps scholars understand the gap between formal institutional change and outcomes. Informed by institutional analysis and feminist institutionalist scholarship, it explores the relationship between informal institutions, institutional change, and gender equality, using gender equality to scrutinize issues central to institutional change, demonstrating that institutional analyses improve when gender dynamics are incorporated. Showing the gendering of power relations highlights power in institutional change in new ways, improving understandings of why institutional change rarely happens as intended by institutional designers.

The silence of South-Sudanese women: social risks in talking about experiences of sexual violence.

Tankink, M. T. A. (2013). “The silence of South-Sudanese women: social risks in talking about experiences of sexual violence.” Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care 15(4): 391-403. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2012.752936#.UqiSq-Ja-wA
In South Sudan, it is rare for someone to speak about sexual violence. According to the South Sudanese, it can be dangerous to talk as there will be social consequences and talking can destroy you. In this paper, I describe some of the impediments women from South Sudan experience when they try to share their experienced sexual violence with significant others by describing a specific case. The main coping strategy for most South Sudanese women is to keep their experiences secret to protect themselves. The health and health-seeking behaviour of South Sudanese women are influenced by cultural notions of coping with a taboo as strong as sexual violence. I will show that the women’s silence is the result of a complex and dynamic reality in the women’s everyday lives. The women often experience considerable tension between the dominant public cultural ideas and their private experiences and personal notions. I conclude with a discussion about how women’s silence should be respected and the trauma addressed metaphorically to avoid unwanted or uncontrolled social consequences. What is most at stake for the South Sudanese women is the prevention of further humiliation or social exclusion in their everyday lives as a result of sexual violence.

How the methods used to eliminate foot binding in China can be employed to eradicate female genital mutilation.

Wilson, A.-M. (2012). “How the methods used to eliminate foot binding in China can be employed to eradicate female genital mutilation.” Journal of Gender Studies 22(1): 17-37. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2012.752936#.UqiSq-Ja-wA
Gender-based violence affects women in most societies. Chinese foot binding existed for nearly a thousand years and was seen as a sign of beauty and marriageability. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has existed for over two thousand years, affecting 140 million women across forty countries. Both practices have significant parallels and are examined historically, geographically, and by health consequences. An analysis is made of the elimination of foot binding and applied to the eradication of FGM. A model is created to identify the features which are most likely to lead to success. Three case studies taken from Somalia, Ghana, and Ethiopia are assessed against the success criteria for the eradication of foot binding. Conclusions and recommendations are drawn for future work in the stand against FGM.

Globalising “gender” in – or as- governance? Questioning the terms of local translations.

Manicom, L. (2012). “Globalising “gender” in – or as – governance? Questioning the terms of local translations.” Agenda: Empowering women for gender equity 16(48): 6-21. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10130950.2001.9675944#.UpyIHeIQAa8
LINZI MANICOM argues that a particular discourse of “gender” has become normalised in the project of transforming governance in South Africa. She shares with other feminists a concern about the political implications and effects of institutionalising gender, about its apparent depoliticisation and the extent to which it has become a technocratic, disciplinary category.

Data and progress in peace and conflict research.

Gleditsch, K. S., N. W. Metternich, et al. (2013). “Data and progress in peace and conflict research.” Journal of Peace Research.
We highlight how efforts to collect systematic data on conflict have helped foster progress in peace and conflict research. The Journal of Peace Research has played a key role in these developments, and has become a leading outlet for the new wave of disaggregated conflict data. We survey progress in the development of conflict data and how this interacts with theory development and progress in research, drawing specifically on examples from the move towards a greater focus on disaggregation and agency in conflict research. We focus on disaggregation in three specific dimensions, namely the resolution of conflict data, agency in conflict data, and the specific strategies used in conflict, and we also discuss new efforts to study conflict processes beyond the use of violence. We look ahead to new challenges in conflict research and how data developments and the emergence of “big data” push us to think harder about types of conflict, agency, and the “right” level of aggregation for querying data and evaluating specific theories.

Mind the gap: Do proportional electoral systems foster a more equal representation of women and men, poor and rich?

Bernauer, J., N. Giger, et al. (2013). “Mind the gap: Do proportional electoral systems foster a more equal representation of women and men, poor and rich?” International Political Science Review.
Female gender and low income are two markers for groups that have been historically disadvantaged within most societies. The study explores two research questions related to their political representation: (1) Are parties biased towards the ideological preferences of male and rich citizens?; and (2) Does the proportionality of the electoral system moderate the degree of under-representation of women and poor citizens in the party system? A multilevel analysis of survey data from 24 parliamentary democracies indicates that there is some bias against those with low income and, at a much smaller rate, women. This has systemic consequences for the quality of representation, as the preferences of the complementary groups differ. The proportionality of the electoral system influences the degree of under-representation: specifically, larger district magnitudes help in closing the considerable gap between rich and poor.