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CfP: Teaching about Violence roundtable (AAA 2014)

AAA 2014 Call for Roundtable Participants

Teaching about Violence: Goals, Challenges, and Responsibilities

“Researching and writing about violence will never be a simple endeavor. The subject is fraught with assumptions, presuppositions, and contradictions,” state Robben and Nordstrom (1995:5). But what about our endeavors in teaching about violence? What types of challenges do anthropologists experience as they design syllabi, prepare lectures, talk with students, grade papers, and moderate classroom discussions about violence in all its myriad forms? As teachers, what are our goals when it comes to designing classes about violence? Do we intend merely to inform students about inequalities, or to challenge them to change the world through the use of applied/public anthropology? And what is our responsibility when it comes to helping students navigate their emotional responses to learning about violence? Behar notes, “When you write vulnerably, others respond vulnerably. A different set of problems and predicaments arise which would never surface in response to more detached writing. What is the writer’s responsibility to those who are moved by her writing? …. Should I feel good that my writing makes a reader break out crying? Does an emotional response lessen or enhance intellectual understanding?” (1996:16) We put this same question to our roundtable participants who work as teachers – what are our responsibilities and goals as anthropologists who introduce students to emotionally upsetting topics? Is it acceptable, appropriate – or even essential – to provide students with safe spaces within the classroom or within assignments to release their emotions and explore their feelings of anger, fear, shame, pain, guilt, or re-victimization?

This roundtable aims to start a conversation with anthropologists-as-teachers about the goals, challenges, and responsibilities that come with navigating the difficult waters of appropriately crafting syllabi, facilitating classroom discussions, and crafting assignments to help students learn about violence from anthropological and interdisciplinary perspectives. We welcome participation from anthropologists who teach about violence in all its different forms, including: direct interpersonal violence like rape, intimate partner battering, child abuse, and other forms of torture; structural violence and indirect suffering caused by “the social machinery of oppression” (Farmer 2004:307), or the “violences of everyday life” that occur in the lives of people on varying levels of the class spectrum (Kleinman 2000); or people’s experiences with “symbolic violence,” as conceptualized by Bourdieu (2001 [1998]). In particular, we seek participants who have taught at least a few classes focusing specifically on violence, and participants who have devised creative or innovative approaches to syllabi development, classroom facilitation, or the design of assignments or research projects related to the topic of violence. Depending on the number of participants, we will aim for 10-minute presentations, followed by plenty of time for discussion with audience members.


Please send 100-word proposal to roundtable organizers

by March 31, 2014:

 Mahri Irvine,

Catherine Mitchell Fuentes,

Selected participants will be notified on a rolling basis.



Works Cited

Behar, Ruth

1996  The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart. Boston: Beacon Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre

2001 [1998]  Masculine Domination. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Farmer, Paul

2004  An Anthropology of Structural Violence. Current Anthropology 45(3):305-325.

Kleinman, Arthur

2000  The Violences of Everyday Life: The Multiple Forms and Dynamics of Social Violence. In Violence and Subjectivity. V. Das, A. Kleinman, M. Ramphele, and P. Reynolds, eds. Pp. 226-241. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Robben, Antonius C.G.M., and Carolyn Nordstrom

1995  The Anthropology and Ethnography of Violence and Sociopolitical Conflict. In Fieldwork Under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival. C. Nordstrom and A.C.G.M. Robben, eds. Pp. 1-23. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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