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Measuring Violence, Erasing Struggles: Hermeneutical Injustice in Domestic Violence Research

Preethi Krishnan (1061 Dillsboro Rd, USA)

Gender Visibility and Erasure

ISBN: 978-1-80382-594-6, eISBN: 978-1-80382-593-9

Publication date: 15 August 2022


Domestic violence is the manifestation of gender and power within intimate and family relationships. How women make sense of their experience of violence may be influenced by the presence or absence of collective hermeneutical resources. In spaces where feminist interpretive resources are not available, women’s authentic experiences tend to be erased, misunderstood, and misrepresented even in institutions that are meant to protect them. This chapter critically examines one such institution – survey research. While surveys show the extent of a social problem, it is essential to examine whether surveys highlight or erase the various ways in which women struggle with violence. This leads to the questions: What hermeneutical resources do women have to make sense of their experience of violence? How do surveys erase or enhance collective understanding of women’s experience of violence? This chapter juxtaposes the findings about women’s attitudes toward domestic violence as measured by the Tamil Nadu National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2016 with ethnographic data gathered from rural Tamil Nadu, India. In the survey, more than 70% of the women justified domestic violence against women. In contrast, analysis of ethnographic data revealed that women rarely justified violence but rather struggled with violence in three ways – subverting violence, calibrating violence, and collaborating against violence. Where there were organizing structures, such as a union, women resorted to collaborative action. Thus, surveys that measure women’s attitudes toward domestic violence as static mind-sets erase how consciousness is an outcome of political organizing that provides marginalized groups with liberational interpretive resources.



Krishnan, P. (2022), "Measuring Violence, Erasing Struggles: Hermeneutical Injustice in Domestic Violence Research", Segal, M.T. and Demos, V. (Ed.) Gender Visibility and Erasure (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 33), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 165-179.



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