Bodies Living With Violence
University of Connecticut – Storrs Campus
Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16, 2016
Rationale and Background:
On April 12, 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department. According to the official report, Gray – a twenty-five-year-old African American man — was allegedly in possession of an illegal switchblade. While in police custody, Gray fell into a coma and was transported to a local trauma center. Gray died on April 19, 2015 due to severe spinal cord injuries. Eyewitnesses to the arrest averred that the officers involved used unnecessary force in apprehending Gray. Soon after, on April 25, 2015, a downtown Baltimore protest turned violent; the civil unrest intensified on April 27, the date of Gray’s funeral. Governor Lawrence Hogan declared a “state of emergency” as Maryland’s National Guard was deployed and a city curfew was established. On May 1, 2015, the medical examiner’s report ruled Gray’s death was a homicide and the six officers involved have since been charged with manslaughter and one officer is facing a count of second degree depraved heart murder.
At another point on the globe, a group of young girls is kidnapped from their school by a band of ISIS Jihadists called Boko Haram. Based in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon the armed militia attack another school for girls and another and another, in such rapid and unimpeded succession that the kidnap count quickly rises into the thousands. The kidnapped school girls, whom Boko Haram “liberates” from education, become sex slaves, cooks, and human shields against advancing forces of neighboring militaries (who have restored 700 girls to their anxious families). The kidnappers sweep through villages killing men in front of their families, taking the women, and leaving small children alone to die. More than a million and a half people are displaced by the violence and disorder accompanying this case of “new wars” that target civilians. Other branches of ISIS hunt and displace minority ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria in a quest to turn the Middle East and Africa into an “Islamic State.”
Meanwhile, scores of bodies experience daily and often hidden forms of gender-based violence as child brides, trafficked women, and exploited migrants who undertake risky sea voyages to escape harm and land in detention centers in Australia and Southern Europe. That violence is in addition, of course, to the many incidences of domestic violence and rapes on campuses in the USA and in buses in India and elsewhere that are not properly adjudicated. The systemic treatment of certain bodies as disposable – a point made clear in the contemporary “#blacklivesmatter” movement – is also reflected in ongoing violence enacted too often by agents of the state, against transgendered, racialized, sexualized, and classed subjects.
This interdisciplinary workshop, titled, “Bodies Living with Violence,” focuses on these and other considerations of race, gender, sexuality, and violence in our immediate time.
Overview of Conference Activities:
The conference/workshop opened with an exhibition, reception and keynote address by Stephen Chan at the Benton Museum – East Gallery on Friday, April 15, 2016, followed by a discussion of papers by invited academic experts and UConn scholars from multiple disciplines and sites at the workshop. The exhibition at the Benton drew from its archives that reflect the various workshop themes. Conference papers will be included in a special journal issue or edited book in 2017.
In addition to bringing together a diverse community of scholars, this conference/workshop’s theme corresponds to other campus-wide initiatives on campus, which include the newly launched Humanities Action Lab (which this year is focused on incarceration) and the annual UConn Reads program (which will feature the following theme: “Race in America”).
The Bodies Living With Violence is co-organized by Cathy Schlund-Vials (English and Asian/Asian American Studies) and Christine Sylvester (Political Science and WGSS), and involves the Africana Studies Institute, El Instituto, the Women’s, Gender, Sexualities Studies Program, and the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute.