Gender, Violence and Visual Activism – The Workshops

Gender, Violence and Visual Activism focuses on questions of visuality, visual culture, and art in order to widen perspectives on sexualized and gendered violence. It seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the history, scale and effects of violence against women and LGBTIQs. Furthermore, it is particularly interested in exploring forms and expressions of resistance as well as strategies of opposing gendered and sexualized violence through cultural means.

The primary focus of the project is on visual activism and the ways in which activist strategies that employ images might challenge normative and symbolic forms of violence, and ultimately, work towards mitigating physical violence. This includes asking what the term visual activism means in different contexts and at different times. It also means asking both about the potential violence of images and the semiotics, aesthetics, and effects of images of violence.

In order to account for epistemic, symbolic, and normative violence and the ways in which they are bound to physical violence, the project combines perspectives from the social sciences and the humanities, but also values every-day and activist knowledge production.

Gender, Violence, and Visual Activism takes place as a series of three workshops in South Africa and Germany between November 2014 and December 2016. It invites exchange and collaboration between theorists, artists, activists, media and cultural practitioners. Conceptual work, critical thinking and political discussion combines with creative practices, aesthetic explorations, and artistic intervention.

The first workshop took place November 23-27, 2014 in Kalk Bay, Cape Town. Its focus was on questions of violence and the ways in which violence is enacted, experienced, conceptualised and resisted in different locations and contexts. Discussions about how we conceptualize violence – highly relevant for understanding what is meant by terms like ‘discrimination’, ‘coercion’, ‘hate crimes’, ‘corrective rape’ and the intersections between gender normativity, homophobia and racism – provided for a shared, though contested vocabulary, as well as attentiveness to different political challenges and visions. Artistic practices and aesthetic strategies were discussed in reference to concrete material brought by the participants. During the public event “thinking against violence. queer perspectives” (26 Nov 2014 at Centre for African Studies Gallery, Cape Town University) screenings, life presentations, and readings inspired deep listening and lively discussions.

Participants of the first workshop: Antke Engel, Mook Lion, Renate Lorenz, Keguro Macharia, Collen Mfazwe, Brian Muller, Neo Musangi, Daniel Nel, Lebo Ntladi, Kylie Thomas, and Gille de Vlieg.

Gender, Violence, and Visual Activism is conceptualized and facilitated by

Kylie Thomas (Stellenbosch University) & Antke Engel (Institute for Queer Theory, Berlin)

The series of three workshops is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation as part of the Fellowship Programme “Humanities in Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa”

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