The promise and peril of agency as motion: A feminist new materialist approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment

Kate Lockwood Harris, Megan McFarlane, Valerie Wieskamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Organizational scholars have established that sexual harassment, the most studied kind of sexual violence, is an organizational problem. Extending this work, we analyze two critical events regarding sexual violence in the United States—one in the military and another at a university—in which discourse detracts from understanding the problem in this way. We draw upon feminist new materialism and its primary method—diffraction—to track ‘cuts’, the practices that simplify and pause agency’s complex, perpetual motions. Our analysis shows that agency moves in discussions about the aftermath of violence. That momentum highlights the organization’s capacity to respond to rape. Even so, during discussions about enacting violence, the perpetual motion of agency congeals around discrete humans, thereby maintaining assault as an individual act. These cuts, whereby agency pauses on individual perpetrators, obscure how organizational dynamics make sexual violence more or less likely to occur. We suggest that a focus on agency’s kinetic qualities can help feminist scholars continue to highlight how the systemic aspects of harassment and other forms of violence become hard to notice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrganization
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Agency
  • boundary-making practices
  • cuts
  • feminist new materialism
  • sexual harassment
  • sexual violence

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