Virtual Session on Sexual Violence as a Strategy of Enclosure: an Anti-Origin Story

Organizer: Centre for the Study of Women and Gender at the University of Warwick

About the Session

  • Thursday 25 Jan ’24
  • When: 3pm UK/8:30pm IST
  • Free Registration

Session by: Prof. Alison Phipps_ (Newcastle University)


This paper explores a range of stories that aim to account for the origins of gender domination and sexual violence. First, sociobiological thought experiments which centre ‘sexed’ bodily differences in a primitive ‘state of nature’. Secondly, sociocultural theories of how gendered subjectification occurs within kinship systems through the entry into language. Thirdly, socioeconomic analyses of women’s reproductive capacities as a source of exchange value in agricultural societies. Fourthly, sociopolitical narratives highlighting the process of state formation. I ask: what do these different stories offer our understanding of sexual violence? Both the sociobiological and sociocultural stories ultimately present accounts of oppression without exploitation: in other words, they tell us how sexual violence occurs but not why, explaining gender domination in terms of itself and collapsing into a biological essentialism which is arguably colonial in provenance. Using the socioeconomic and sociopolitical origin stories, however, sexual violence can be theorised as a strategy of enclosure, which treats women’s bodies as territory to be used for economic ends, or to be conquered as part of political projects. This is not offered as a definitive account or alternative origin story, but as an attempt to understand what sexual violence might do within shifting and fluid social relations at points when hierarchy emerges out of difference.

Register Here

Speaker Bio:

Alison Phipps is Professor of Sociology at Newcastle University and author of Me, Not You: the trouble with mainstream feminism. Her forthcoming book is Personal Business: sexual violence in racial capitalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *