skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

This content will become publicly available on October 31, 2024

Title: The domestic violence victim as COVID crisis figure
During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence came to be understood as a national emergency. In this paper, we ask how and why domestic violence was constructed as a crisis specific to the pandemic. Drawing from newspaper data, we show that the domestic violence victim came to embody the violation of gendered boundaries between “public” and “private” spheres. Representations of domestic violence centered on violence spilling over the boundaries of the home, infecting the home, or the home imploding. While theorists of crisis have focused on the central role of temporality in crisis construction, and especially the performative invocation of “new time,” we argue that crisis rhetoric often relies on anxiety about the transgression of spatial boundaries. Our spatial approach to crisis has two components. First, we argue that crisis framings often invoke the idea that seemingly distinct arenas of social life are becoming disorganized or blurred. And second, because thresholds between social spaces are coded as sacred during crisis, this spatial reordering is rendered dangerous, resulting in calls to resecure boundaries.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Theory and Society
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect domestic violence? We might expect that the most marginalized victims experienced the most dramatic upticks in violence during the pandemic. However, through life-story interviews, I found that survivors who were enduring abuse, poverty, housing insecurity, and systems involvement pre-COVID did not suffer worse abuse during the pandemic. For multiply marginalized survivors, COVID did not produce more violence directly, but instead worsened the social contexts in which they already experienced violence and related problems, setting them up for future instability. The small group of survivors in this study who did experience COVID as a novel period of violence were likely to be middle-class and better-resourced. To explain these findings, I suggest moving away from a model of crisis as “external stressor.” I offer the concept “clustered vulnerabilities” to explain how—rather than entering in as “shock”—crisis amplifies existing structural problems: social vulnerabilities pile up, becoming denser and more difficult to manage. “Clustered vulnerabilities” better explains crisis in the lives of marginalized people and is useful for analyzing the relationship between chronic disadvantage and crisis across cases.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract The Tunisian government, which is deeply divided, especially along ideological lines, responded to growing concerns over increased violence against women during the Coronavirus pandemic by establishing a new domestic violence shelter and 24/7 hotline. This article asks: Why did the state respond to gender-based violence ( gbv ) concerns during the Coronavirus pandemic in Tunisia, despite ideological and political divisions? We argue that the state addressed some concerns around violence during the pandemic because combatting gbv has bipartisan support in Tunisia. Tunisian Islamist and secularist women’s rights organizations succeeded in building a bipartisan coalition of support on this issue because they worked either together in a short-lived coalition or in tandem with similar goals over the past decade during the democratic transition in Tunisia. Building on the existing coalition literature, we show that feminist coalition formation before a pandemic has implications for feminists’ success in times of crisis. 
    more » « less
  3. Within the ongoing disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, technologically mediated health surveillance programs have vastly intensified and expanded to new spaces. Popular understandings of medical and health data protections came into question as a variety of institutions introduced new tools for symptom tracking, contact tracing, and the management of related data. These systems have raised complex questions about who should have access to health information, under what circumstances, and how people and institutions negotiate relationships between privacy, public safety, and care during times of crisis. In this paper, we take up the case of a large public university working to keep campus productive during COVID-19 through practices of placemaking, symptom screeners, and vaccine mandate compliance databases. Drawing on a multi-methods study including thirty-eight interviews, organizational documents, and discursive analysis, we show where and for whom administrative care infrastructures either misrecognized or torqued (Bowker and Star 1999) the care relationships that made life possible for people in the university community. We argue that an analysis of care—including the social relations that enable it and those that attempt to hegemonically define it—opens important questions for how people relate to data they produce about their bodies as well as to the institutions that manage them. Furthermore, we argue that privacy frameworks that rely on individual rights, essential categories of “sensitive information,” or the normative legitimacy of institutional practices are not equipped to reveal how people negotiate privacy and care in times of crisis. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract In this paper, we argue that endogenous shifts in private consumption behaviour across sectors of the economy can act as a potent mitigation mechanism during an epidemic or when the economy is re-opened after a temporary lockdown. We introduce a susceptible-infected-recovered epidemiological model into a neoclassical production economy in which goods are distinguished by the degree to which they can be consumed at home rather than in a social, possibly contagious context. We demonstrate within the model, that the ‘Swedish solution’ of letting the epidemic play out without much government intervention and allowing agents to reduce their overall consumption as well as shift their consumption behaviour towards relatively safe sectors can lead to substantial mitigation of the economic and human costs of the COVID-19 crisis. We argue that significant seasonal variation in the infection risk is needed to account for the two-wave nature of the pandemic. We estimate the model on Swedish health data and show that it predicts the dynamics of weekly deaths, aggregate as well as sectoral consumption, that accord well with the empirical record and the two-waves for Sweden for 2020 and early 2021. We also characterize the allocation a social planner would choose and how it would dictate sectoral consumption patterns. In so doing, we demonstrate that the laissez-faire outcome with sectoral reallocation mitigates the economic and health crisis but possibly at the expense of unnecessary deaths and too massive a decline in economic activity. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Encounters with rats in urban areas increase risk of human exposure to rat-associated zoonotic pathogens and act as a stressor associated with psychological distress. The frequency and nature of human-rat encounters may be altered by social distancing policies to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, restaurant closures may reduce food availability for rats and promote rat activity in nearby residential areas, thus increasing public health risks during a period of public health crisis. In this study, we aimed to identify factors associated with increased perceived exposure to rats during a stay-at-home order, describe residents’ encounters with rats relevant to their health and well-being, and identify factors associated with increased use of rodent control. Methods Urban residents in Chicago, a large city with growing concerns about rats and health disparities, completed an online questionnaire including fixed response and open-ended questions during the spring 2020 stay-at-home order. Analyses included ordinal multivariate regression, spatial analysis, and thematic analysis for open-ended responses. Results Overall, 21% of respondents ( n  = 835) reported an increase in rat sightings around their homes during the stay-at-home order and increased rat sightings was positively associated with proximity to restaurants, low-rise apartment buildings, and rat feces in the home ( p  ≤ 0.01). Many respondents described feeling unsafe using their patio or yard, and afraid of rats entering their home or spreading disease. Greater engagement with rodent control was associated with property ownership, information about rat control, and areas with lower incomes ( p  ≤ 0.01). Conclusions More frequent rat encounters may be an unanticipated public health concern during periods of social distancing, especially in restaurant-dense areas or in low-rise apartment buildings. Rat presence may also limit residents’ ability to enjoy nearby outdoor spaces, which otherwise might buffer stress experienced during a stay-at-home order. Proactive rat control may be needed to mitigate rat-associated health risks during future stay-at-home orders. 
    more » « less