Hard Knocks: Domestic Violence and the Psychology of Storytelling

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Routledge, 2010 - Family & Relationships - 196 pages
"Janice Haaken-feminist researcher, clinician, and activist-grips us with her analysis of the stories we tell ourselves about family violence. Whether probing the complexities of victim narratives or examining the different ways feminists and activists narrate domestic violence, Haaken is a pioneer in extending psychoanalytic-feminist theory into the tough terrain of anti-violence politics. Essential reading for activists and gender studies theorists alike." Lynne Layton, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School, USA

"In an accessible, direct and compelling manner, this impressively scholarly text surveys the full array of recent debates tackling the complexities of gender and violence. Janice Haaken's voice has become pivotal in the rethinking of domestic violence literature and research, ensuring that this book will become an essential text across the social sciences in all areas where gender is discussed." Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

This book draws on interviews carried out over a period of eight years, as well as novels, films, and domestic violence literature, to explain the role of story-telling in the history of the battered women's movement. The author shows how cultural contexts shape how stories about domestic abuse are told, and offers critical tools for bringing psychology into discussions of group dynamics in the domestic violence field.

The book enlists psychoanalytic-feminist theory to analyse storytelling practices and to re-visit four areas of tension in the movement. These areas include the conflicts that emerge between the battered women's movement and the state, and the complex relationship between domestic violence and other social problems. The volume also looks at the tensions between groups of women within the movement, and how to address differences based on race, class or other dimensions of power. Finally, the book explores the contentious issue of how to acknowledge forms of female aggression while still preserving a gender analysis of intimate partner violence.

The book is ideal reading for scholars, activists, advocates and policy planners involved in domestic violence, and for students of psychology, social work, sociology and criminology.

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Jan Haaken has achieved a remarkable degree of synthesis in Hard Knocks, her impressive account of domestic violence and the methodology of feminist storytelling developments. The book brings together fieldwork conducted over 8 years and expresses in a very elegant manner the current status of the field in the psychology of domestic violence. Her ability to draw together different styles of scholarly engagement is a marker of both quality and sophistication. Rather than allying herself with one theoretical language, with a single ‘tool-box’ of analysis, Haaken combines and overlays a series of (often disparate) intellectual traditions: social psychology, empirical feminist research, techniques of literary criticism, and psychoanalytic critique are blended in a genuinely critical manner. Haaken’s style also is immediate and readable.
What however stuck most strongly with me was Haaken’s lifelong dedication to storytelling as political praxis – something the book brings to life with incredible vigour and colour – and the fact of Haaken’s own storytelling ability, which is itself an incisive vehicle of transformation.
-Derek Hook, Reader, Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College

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"Haaken’s penetrating historical critique of the domestic violence movement comes as a welcome breath of fresh air – opening up new avenues for reinvigorated feminist analysis and activism. ... [Haaken’s] analytical ability to hold complexity within one analytical frame provides feminist psychologists with an exemplary case study of the types of dialectical thought and action that need to be promoted. This book serves as a much-needed roadmap of the contours of new and more transformative approaches to domestic violence." - Catherine Campbell, London School of Economics, in The Community Psychologist 

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About the author (2010)

Janice Haaken is a Professor of Psychology at Portland State University. She is also a clinical and community psychologist, documentary filmmaker and social justice activist. An interdisciplinary scholar, Haaken has published extensively in the areas of psychoanalysis and feminism, gender and the history of psychiatric diagnosis, group responses to violence and trauma, and the psychology of storytelling.

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