Luisa Schneider

Luisa Schneider

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology

St Peter's College

Thesis: 'Teeth and tongue jammed together' Gender, relationships, emotions and violence in Freetown (working title)

Research: Gendered subject positions are one of the main foundation stones upon which Sierra Leonean culture is built. Between historical trajectories, especially the civil war and the Ebola pandemic, the cultural traditions and the influence of global trends, there is a renegotiation of gendered standards and relationship practices that is taking place in Sierra Leone.

During my fieldwork on gender identities among men and women from various backgrounds and walks of life in Freetown, Sierra Leone, it has become clear that to understand the relationship between men and women, it is necessary to navigate cultural attitudes towards gender-based violence.

I am therefore analysing sexual relationships to map the complex interconnection between gendered expectations generated by social, economic, and cultural conditions, and the daily lived reality of men and women. Based in Freetown, the capital city, my DPhil highlights how relationships are negotiated between new urban dynamics and forms of relationships and older local ideals of woman- and manhood that are firmly grounded in a concept of gender parallelism.  

During my interviews, the stories of relationships were diverse and encompassed a wide range of sexual interactions and dynamics. Intimate Partner Violence on the other hand, was a ubiquitous concern, and a central theme that united many of these narratives. Social pressures to perform expected roles of masculinity and femininity, along with the insecurities attendant upon what these ideals mean in a rapidly changing social landscape lie at the heart of forms of violence, and the endurance of those who suffer it.

For most of my respondents, Intimate Partner Violence has come to demonstrate the intactness of a relationship and to prevent its dismantling. It is executed, endured and even expected as a demonstration of affection. The structures of punishment and domination are embedded in a specific understanding of woman- and manhood. In this context, violence can be interpreted as a form of communication.

My work analyses the difficult issue of how domestic violence and Intimate Partner Violence function, not as a disruption of the norm, but as the norm within a system of social acceptance through an anthropological lens. I focus on the ways relationships are lived and on the multi-layered personal experiences and attitudes of those perpetrating, witnessing and suffering Intimate Partner violence and domestic violence.

I furthermore analyse existing laws and services. My work therefore explores the execution, endurance, mediation, and regulation as well as the sociocultural, legal, and political ramifications of acts of Intimate Partner Violence and domestic violence in Freetown.

Key research interests: VAWG, GBV, gender, (post) conflict, youth, methodology and research ethics.

Publications and Speaking events can be found on my website.



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