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First Steps

It seems paradoxical that, as a researcher who specialises in conducting socio-anthropological research on violence (where talking about personal experiences is almost mandatory), it has taken me almost 5 months to write this short testimony.

Yet, sharing my first steps into researching interpersonal violence, including intimate partner violence will shed some light on this delay.

Personal journey with interpersonal violence

I was first introduced to the topic of violence while doing my university studies. This “introduction” was not through any formal learning process about the topic or scientific pursuit, but an actual experience of violence. For two years, a university professor subjected my colleagues and I to daily tirades, insults, homophobic jokes and remarks and threats of being fired which ultimately ended up in a number of us being fired from our university positions. As bad as this sounds, our situation was comparatively better than other students and colleagues, who showed up routinely in the office with visible marks of physical aggression.

Searching for meaning behind men’s perpetration of violence

This early exposure to violence in the workplace deeply influenced my career path. Shortly after being fired from my university post, I started my PhD research. I was interested in which at the time was (and still probably is) an unpopular and slightly controversial topic: the life stories and interpretations of men who had perpetrated violence, especially those who had committed acts of homicide or femicide. The main assumption of this work is the one of verstehen, or to understand actions from the actor’s point of view i.e. we can only fully comprehend why a killing occurs by talking face-to-face with the perpetrators and, by doing so, trying to understand how meanings, taking stock of knowledge at hand, identities and social position interact. Quantitative studies can provide us with a structural picture, however the voice of the perpetrator is usually absent in these inquiries.

In hindsight, my personal experience of workplace violence (entirely legitimated by the institution) was at least one of the triggers of my research questions: why is he doing this? How does he see things? How does he see us? Ultimately, biographies are a gateway to an experiential and complex understanding of violence.

A turning-point: attending SVRI Forum 2019

Last October I attended the Forum for the first time. It was my first experience attending a massive event with a clear gender-conscious perspective. And I was quite surprised, yet heartened by the strong sense of solidarity and community shared among delegates. A diverse group of people, coming from different corners of the world, with a shared interest and a common purpose.

The conference was a unique experience in my career: not only did it give me an overview of the field and its evolving interests, but it showed me how diverse the group of people involved is (from researchers, to practitioners, politicians and activists). The common interests in evidence-driven policies and politically-involved research were common factors among all participants, uniting our goals as a group.


Martin First Steps 2

The topics addressed in the event are undeniable proof that certain traits of violence against women (varied as it can be) are structural: in different continents same patterns can be observed. This is our coalescent factor: we are acting together and addressing the issue globally.

As a bursary winner selected for the SVRI’s Young Professionals Programme, I had the opportunity to be mentored and guided before delivering my presentation. The sound advice of my mentor James Lang, as well as the tremendous support of Lizle Loots and Elizabeth Dartnall and other SVRI staff have provided me with great encouragement to continue my research. Moreover, the possibility to meet with experts in the field such as Michael Flood, Gary Barker and Jacquelyn Campbell, as well as other inspirational researchers and activists has been tremendously motivating. The support provided by the Programme has already shown its significant impact in my career, with new academic collaborations and the encouragement to publish the manuscript of the paper discussed in the Forum.

The conference has left me with a memorable experience, new friends and the confidence to keep working for the prevention of violence against women and violence against children.


Martin First Steps 3 (2)

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Written by Martín Hernán Di Marco,  National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina

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