Research topic: Gender violence in Italy: A critical analysis of discourses and counter-discourses. 


Thesis abstract

In 2012 a new feminist term “femminicidio” (feminicide) entered the Italian public debate, got adopted by political élites and developed into unprecedented media hype. How has the “femminicidio” narrative modified public discourses on Violence Against Women (VAW), Domestic (DV) and Partner Violence (IPV)? And how are the narratives, associated theories and deployed assumptions around these kinds of violence contested?

Through thematic and linguistic analysis using methodologies from Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) I analysed the politicized media discourse and discovered that the “femminicidio” narrative, intertwined with a discourse of progress and emergency, has normalized a gender based reading of VAW. A gender-based reading interprets violence as a cultural product of patriarchy and normalized sexism, violence to be fought against through the elimination of gender stereotypes and achievement of gender equality. I argue that the complex phenomena of violence is oversimplified by the Gender Violence (GBV) discourse, and I opt in this study to read GBV through the lens of theories of bio-politics and identity politics, within a broader critique of social constructivism. In this vein, gender is read as an artificial conceptual category whose semantics remains unsettled across the boundaries of culture and nature, a category that has been adopted by emancipation movements and has colonized popular and institutional discourses on human identity and relations. As a result, discourses constructed around the concept of gender (gender discourses) contribute to an overculturalization of both the individual and human relations in society. The ‘femminicidio’ narrative and the gender framework more broadly are contested at the margins of public discourse by the shared parenting and the anti-gender movements. Although these voices are usually labelled as conservative and reactionary, I look at them as actors of contestation and interrogate them in the spirit of Critical Cultural Studies for speaking discourses that can potentially question and innovate the legitimized understandings of the social issues of VAW, DV, and IPV. In other words, I view these counter-movements as potential actors of social change.

In this study two counter-discourses emerging from interviews conducted in these spaces of contestation are highlighted. The first is what I call an ‘ideology discourse’ which pivots around the claim that ‘femminicidio’, feminism and gender discourse contributes to the normalization of false and partial representations of complex relationships between men and women. The second is a ‘female violence discourse’, a discourse that sheds light on under-represented aggressor-victim relations and modifies dominant representations of femininity with the possibility for women to be violent in their ordinary life. I argue that integrating these counter-discourses into mainstream and institutional debates can be useful for reappropriating the complexity and biological dimensions of human identity/relations that have been overshadowed by the GBV discourse and for addressing neglected social issues that contribute to violence beyond gender.

About Daniela:

Originally from Italy, Daniela has worked across the world as a freelance journalist, communications specialist and researcher.

While studying a Masters degree with the Centre for Communication and Social Change (CfCSC), Daniela travelled to India to conduct field research on women in community radio.

This trip sparked her interest in gender studies which she explored through her PhD research. Upon being awarded her doctorate in 2016, Daniela is pursuing a career in academia.

To connect with Daniela visit:
Twitter - @DanielaBNDLL