Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
A subject as sensitive as violence against women is particularly challenging to research ethnographically. Interviewing people on their traumatic experiences is ethically problematic, as it might trigger them. More broadly, focusing on the violence itself risks reducing those who experienced it to their worst experiences. Is it possible to study violence against women without already constructing women as victims in advance? In my doctoral research in a rural community in the south of Mexico City, cultural groups revealed themselves as key sites in which competing local notions of violence and femininity were articulated: where ordinary women frequently discussed these topics without being prompted or feeling pressured to do so, and expressed a wide range of opinions. For instance, a weaving workshop was a space of convivial togetherness where women remade themselves and the social fabric by helping and valorizing each other. By not focusing my study on women’s rights activists, or another group of people whose role is specifically defined in relation to violence against women, I came to hear poignant, personal stories while sidestepping the pernicious ethnographic problem of inadvertently normalizing tropes which align specific, narrow roles of victim- and perpetratorhood in gender-based violence scenarios.