Saturday, September 15, 2007

Review: Domestic Violence at the Margins

[Natalie J. Sokoloff and Christina Pratt, eds. Domestic Violence at the Margins: Readings on Race, Class, Gender, and Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.]

I'm afraid I don't have time to do as thorough a review of this book as I usually try to do, but it is a fairly important book and I haven't actually posted a book review in an abnormally long period of time for me, so I want to get something up.

This book is a collection of essays on the experiences of domestic violence of women who tend to be marginalized both in the context of society as a whole and often in the context of mainstream theory and practice around domestic violence as well. This includes women of colour from various communities, but there are also essays that focus on working-class white women, queer women of colour, and other locations where there is important specificity to experiences of domestic violence. The book is almost entirely focused on the United States, but much of the material can be read with relevance to Canada.

There are a number of different sorts of contributions, including some obviously coming from activist spaces -- for example, the excerpt of Andrea Smith's book that is reprinted, the joint statement by Incite! and Critical Resistance, and the contribution by Julia Sudbury. However, the vast majority of the essays come from very academic spaces and are tightly locked in very discipline-bound frameworks for presenting their research and ideas. This is not necessarily a terrible thing, and often the papers were selected because they were a critical intervention introducing new ideas and new politics into the academic literature on domestic violence. But because of the way that disciplinary norms shaped so many of these pieces, I found a lot of them quite boring even if they had important things to say, and a few of them, no matter how innovative they might have been for the context in which they were published, they still contained ways of talking about the issue that I found to be politically problematic.

I would say that it is worth being aware of this book and its contents, and if this was the first time I had encountered some of these ideas I would probably be more excited about the book, but for most people the key ideas and politics that it presents can be found presented in more readible and engaging ways elsewhere. That said, if you are doing a lot of focused reading on violence experienced by women and struggles against it, then this would still be an important volume to put on your list.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

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