Conflict is not abuse Overstating harm, community responsibility, and the duty of repair
Book - 2016
"[This work] is a searing rejection of the cultural phenomenon of blame, cruelty, and scapegoating, revealing how those in positions of power exacerbate and manipulate fear of the 'other' to avoid facing themselves"--Front flap.
In this incisive, refreshing work, Schulman (The Gentrification of the Mind), a novelist, documentarian, and social critic, documents how those with power and privilege increasingly tend to conflate any challenge to their authority or ways of thinking with being attacked. Exploring the overlap between the political and personal, Schulman poses thoughtful examples of how conflict and disagreement—especially when marginalized voices try to enter the commons—are met with false accusations of abuse and claims of victimization by those who may feel offended but are not harmed. Unafraid to tackle challenging subjects such as trigger warnings and safe spaces, Schulman also ruminates on what she sees as society's collective failure to prioritize the teaching of basic problem-solving and relationship skills, resulting in a culture of knee-jerk escalation that, when expressed through physical or emotional force (as in interpersonal abuse and military conflicts) obscures the structural roots of interpersonal and societal breakdown. Like classic works of the early women's and gay liberation movements, this thought-provoking title expertly analyzes power dynamics inherent to interactions as small-scale as spousal violence and as large-scale as the increasing criminalization of HIV-positive Canadians and the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza. A concluding call to address personal and social conflicts without state intervention via police and courts caps off a work that's likely to inspire much discussion. (Oct.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly Annex.
From intimate relationships to global politics, Sarah Schulman observes a continuum: that inflated accusations of harm are used to avoid accountability. Illuminating the difference between Conflict and Abuse, Schulman directly addresses our contemporary culture of scapegoating. This deep, brave, and bold work reveals how punishment replaces personal and collective self-criticism, and shows why difference is so often used to justify cruelty and shunning. Rooting the problem of escalation in negative group relationships, Schulman illuminates the ways cliques, communities, families, and religious, racial, and national groups bond through the refusal to change their self-concept. She illustrates how Supremacy behavior and Traumatized behavior resemble each other, through a shared inability to tolerate difference.
This important and sure to be controversial book illuminates such contemporary and historical issues of personal, racial, and geo-political difference as tools of escalation towards injustice, exclusion, and punishment, whether the objects of dehumanization are other individuals in our families or communities, people with HIV, African Americans, or Palestinians. Conflict Is Not Abuse is a searing rejection of the cultural phenomenon of blame, cruelty, and scapegoating, and how those in positions of power exacerbate and manipulate fear of the "other" to achieve their goals.
Sarah Schulman is a novelist, nonfiction writer, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and AIDS historian, and the author of eighteen books. A Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellow, Sarah is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. Her novels published by Arsenal include Rat Bohemia, Empathy, After Delores, and The Mere Future. She lives in New York.