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14. June 2010

Oliva Espin und Edit Schlaffer © Amerika Haus

Oliva Espin and Edit Schlaffer

“Is Domestic Violence a Cultural Tradition?...and Other Questions About Gender and Migration”

A presentation by Oliva Espin

On June 10, 2010, Women without Borders and the US Embassy in Austria co-hosted a talk by Dr. Oliva Espin at the Amerika Haus. Dr. Espin is the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria University, Klagenfurt, and a Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University.

Dr. Espin provided fascinating insight into the consequences of crossing borders for women. When migrants cross geo-political boundaries, they also cross emotional and behavioral boundaries, a fact that is not often acknowledged by either the migrants themselves or the regulating authorities. Dr. Espin also pointed out that migration can be either emancipatory or subjugating for women; while migration can allow women to transgress traditional lines of power within the family, women and men can also regress into imagined “traditional” gender roles when faced with alternative influences in a new country.

Around the world, women are made to be the bearers of culture, frequently at the expense of their own lives. Immigrants police women’s bodies and sexuality to assert moral superiority over their host cultures, leading to occurrences of domestic violence among immigrant groups. Because controlling women’s behavior is symbolic of maintaining order, however, women sometimes also join in these traditions.

Dr. Espin concluded her talk by pointing out that what passes for knowledge of immigrant women in the host community and among academics is sometimes an accumulation of preconceived notions. It is critical to think about how a host country contributes to the oppression of immigrant women under the guise of respect for foreign cultures and traditions that are physically and emotionally damaging to women.


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