Health and Society Working Group
October 2, 2017 at 2 PM
Paige Sweet, PhD Candidate in Sociology, UIC
The Paradox of Legibility: Domestic Violence and Institutional Survivorhood
Drawing on 18 months of interview and archival research, this project explores how, in order to be legible to the increasingly medicalized anti-violence field, domestic violence victims face pressure to narrate and perform psychological recovery. Women learn to tell stories of intimate violence in a way that makes sense to domestic violence agencies, to courts, to child services, and to immigration authorities. Because these institutions often understand domestic violence as a kind of disease in need of cure, women mold their experiences into narratives of individualized, psychological recovery. These demands create a paradox of legibility: to become a legitimate domestic violence survivor and secure resources from institutions, women must tell stories of psychological survival, even as those very stories erase the structural contexts of victimization and survival.