Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah SchulmanFrom 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.
With a sturdy title like Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair , a book is destined to raise a few eyebrows before its spine is cracked. It does not recklessly attempt to redefine abuse. Nor is Conflict a character assault on survivors of violence, living or dead. Using the language of her colleague Matt Brim, Schulman urges that the conflicted , their truest friends, and their allies hold a radical power in such disputes; they are the ones who are best-poised to resolve conflict, be it intra- or inter- community:. In knowing the difference, social workers are able to perform accurate assessment, treatment referral, and——hopefully——restore peace. And how to resolve conflict? While this could easily seem like a disquisition against our increased digitalism, Schulman is an advocate of these pixelated worlds herself, recounting the devastating attack on Gaza by Israel in through 60 pages of Twitter and Facebook commentary.
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According to Sarah Schulman, an inability to assess threat — and a fatal, horrifying overreaction to the presence of a peaceable black body. Normal human conflict is being reframed as something dangerous, thereby justifying acts of cruelty and exclusion; at the same time, real abuse goes unchallenged and unreported. Confusing being mortal with being threatened can occur in any realm. Instead of talking, it is now acceptable to ghost, defriend or block communication when confronted with uncomfortable feelings such as anger, anxiety or frustration. This refusal to do the basic work of social continuity has effects that go far beyond the original relationship.
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By Sarah Schulman. We disagree on what counts as disagreement. Conflict Is Not Abuse argues that competing criteria for distinguishing conflict from abuse are not in stasis. In the introduction, Schulman argues that people who are injured or feel threatened may overstate the harm that they have suffered in order to justify their own overreactions. In other words, people who see themselves as victims of abuse may actually be or become abusers. Claims of victimhood, writes Schulman, may be used to disguise or defend the perpetration of real abuse. Schulman comments on conflicts that range from interpersonal to international.