Unexpected Subjects: Intimate Partner Violence, Testimony and the Law

A Book Launch and Conversation with Dr Alessandra Gribaldo

A book launch and conversation with Dr Alessandra Gribaldo, author of the book Unexpected Subjects: Intimate Partner Violence, Testimony and the Law.

15th July 2021

Violence against women is a global problem, and domestic violence has proven to be especially difficult to address. What new interventions might reduce the toll? Can creative anthropology generate new ideas for how women can represent their experience in court without being re-victimized?

Professor of Cultural Anthropology Alessandra Gribaldo addresses these questions in her new book, Unexpected Subjects.

Unexpected Subjects offers remarkable depth on a subject that is often simplified in the interests of advocacy, and shows that depth may improve the chances of justice rather than impede it. Gribaldo recounts the stories of women trying to use the legal system for redress and protection, based on hundreds of hours she spent in Italian courts talking with plaintiffs in domestic violence cases, hanging around with witnesses and others involved in the trial, and analysing the process and outcomes of numerous cases. She theorizes the modes in which the law echoes the initial violence that it is supposed to redress, and describes the strategies women use to get around the law’s limits. Gribaldo finds resources in the diverging and conflicted narratives women generate in legal situations, and suggests justice will become more likely as women and their advocates move the law toward accepting rather than stigmatizing these conflicted emotions and stories.

Dr Gribaldo offers an overview of her book, with responses from: Dr Andrea García González (University of Brighton), a scholar of critical feminist and anthropological approaches to the study of peace-building processes, and co-founder of the feminist non-profit organisation Pandora Mirabilia; and Dr Andrea Muehlebach (University of Toronto), an anthropologist specialising in the politics and ethics of economic life, and author of The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Italy (Chicago, 2012). Questions and a discussion follow, moderated by Professor Christopher Newfield, ISRF Director of Research.

This is the ninth in the ISRF’s series of Book Launches.