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    Public survivors: the burdens and possibilities of speaking as a survivor

    Serisier, Tanya (2023) Public survivors: the burdens and possibilities of speaking as a survivor. In: Boyle, K. and Berridge, S. (eds.) Routledge Companion to Gender, Media and Violence. Routledge Companions to Gender. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781032061368.

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    This chapter will explore the narrative politics of survivor memoirs and autobiographical accounts of sexual violence. I argue that, particularly from the 1980s onwards, these public interventions, largely from otherwise unknown women, have played a significant role in shaping public discourses around survivors and sexual violence more generally. In telling their stories, these women become what I call ‘public survivors’, granted a limited form of authority to speak as experts on sexual violence in the public sphere. I argue that while, overall, these narratives have helped to construct more overtly ‘pro-survivor’ or less ‘victim-blaming’ public responses, these attitudes have not extended to all survivors or all narratives. Individual public narratives that achieve recognition tend to feature white women able to mobilize narratives of blamelessness in response to stranger rape. In considering the absences within this genre I ask how and why some narratives continue to be less tellable within the public sphere. Additionally, survivor memoirs, and the survivors who author them, have a complicated relationship to feminist politics more broadly. While the need to listen to and believe survivor accounts of sexual violence is a core tenet of contemporary feminist politics, survivor attitudes to feminism, and particularly its institutional manifestations, range from identification to ambivalence and even overt hostility. Overall, I argue, that the genre of memoirs offers an insight into the complicated relationship between feminism and survivor politics, as well as the strengths and limitations of speaking out about sexual violence as a tool for social and cultural change.


    Item Type: Book Section
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Tanya Serisier
    Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2023 06:22
    Last Modified: 17 Nov 2023 15:51


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