Conflict is Not Abuse
Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair
Arsenal Pulp Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network May 4, 2018 Petal Samuel
Sarah Schulman’s Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) examines how accusations of harm are appropriated and deployed by powerful people, groups, and political entities in order to justify extreme punitive measures against marginalized “others.” The book exposes how the powerful capitalize on the language of abuse and misrepresent normative conflict, expressions of difference, and resistance to abuse, in order to avoid accountability and self-reflexivity. Linking a wide range of contexts, from intimate relationships to rapports between nation-states, Schulman highlights how negative in-group dynamics—organized around practices of group shunning, refusal of self-examination, and false loyalty that rejects accountability to others—become the “centerpiece of most social injustice”. Conflict is Not Abuse calls for us to interrupt and seek alternatives to escalation and violence by embracing mutual accountability and a sense of community responsibility for conflict resolution, rather than allowing the punitive state to act as the exclusive arbiter of conflict.
Sarah Schulman is a Distinguished Professor of English at the College of Staten Island where she teaches courses on fiction writing, and is a prolific novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and non-fiction writer.