Session 13: Evil Feminine

Session 13: Evil Feminine
Chair: Wayne Cristaudo

A Community-Based Study of Aggression Among Girls: Is a Culture of Avoidance Inherently Evil?
Vivian Carlson
Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Saint Joseph College, West Hartford, CT, USA

A collaborative study undertaken by a community partnership and a local college provides evidence that antisocial behavior and overt aggression among adolescent girls may be related to a community-wide culture of denial. This traditionally upper middle class suburban community has a group of dedicated human service providers who are aware of and very concerned about increasingly serious incidents of violence among girls. However, there is a local culture of widespread denial that violence, poverty, racial and ethnic diversity, or multi-risk families exist in their town. The girls participating in our study exhibit rage, frustration, confusion, and isolation in awareness of their negated, invisible status in the community. Although some may see the individual aggressive girls or their actions as evil, our study reveals the possibility that chronic evil avoidance has become a destructive and powerful force which assumes the nature of evil in and of itself, thus trapping the affected girls in an inherently evil context.
This study process included semi-structured group interviews of 46 girls, ages 12 to 19 years, and 26 professionals with an average of 10 years experience in this community. Themes emerging from analyses of the interviews were used to develop a town-wide girls’ survey. Over 600 surveys were returned. Preliminary analyses show that many newcomers feel trapped and desperate about the need to save face among their peers and maintain any semblance of status and power. The struggles around these issues frequently lead to physical violence. Many members of the community openly deny the very existence of these girls, their problems, and the programs designed to support them. In the face of such powerful desubjectification, these girls find themselves locked in a violent subculture where only the toughest survive. In their own words, “no choice but to fight or be a punk.”

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Overturning Adorno: Poetry as Rational Response to Evil
Nancy Mardas
Department of Philosophy, Saint Joseph College, USA

Is it possible to have, or make, a rational response to evil? Responses to evil are generally emotional: fear, rage, denial, despair, disgust, sublimation. As philosophers, we pretend to explore the limits of what can be thought, not only what can be felt. Kant spoke of evil as “…a product of human reason under the natural conditions of its full development, which are found in the social condition.” If evil is a product of reason, is a rational response to evil also possible? If so, what shape might it take?
Articulating a rational response to evil may demand a new understanding of agency, subjectivity, and rationality itself – at the very least, a new understanding of language. Giorgio Agamben (among others) has advocated for an “ethics of testimony” in response to the atrocities of moral evil.
Auschwitz represents a historical crime aiming to destroy the duality of enunciation…[one] . . . that transforms and disarticulates the subject to a limit point in which the link between subjectification and desubjectification seems to break apart.” Testimony, in this sense, is an ethical act of survival that testifies to the impossibility of the total destruction of the human. Yet, it is a survival in a double sense: if the human survives the nonhuman, the drowned, whose bare life persists beyond the death of the human, survives the human.”
My paper will explore the notion that, pace Adorno, poetry is in fact an appropriate, rational, and ethical response to the problem of evil; how, and why, the nature of poetic language may make this possible.

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Something Patristic, No Doubt
Stephen Morris
Independent Scholar, New York, USA

No abstract is presently available