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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Restorative justice, intersectionality theory and domestic violence : epistemic problems in indigenous settings de Freitas, Bruno Osmar Vergini


This thesis problematizes the use of feminist intersectionality theory within the context of the restorative justice social movement as applied in cases of violence against women in culturally heterogeneous settings. I argue that there is an imbalanced anti-essentialist tendency in some intersectional approaches to restorative justice (RJ) and domestic violence that slides toward gender underestimation, ultimately, leading to a phenomenon defined by feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw: intersectional disempowerment. This position threatens the epistemological and critical stances of that feminist analytical tool for understanding racialized women’s needs for security, offender accountability and empowerment at an individual level in situations of domestic violence. In addition, the existence of competing analytical categories in intersectional analysis and multicultural drives obscure pre-existing patriarchal relations in Indigenous communities applying RJ as remedial justice, i.e., intra-group gender inequality and allows co-optation of the intersectionality theory by ethnocultural non-emancipatory political interests. This poses potential detrimental consequences to racialized women dealing with some RJ interventions like alienation, exclusion and the silencing of victims' individual histories, reinforcing the fact that the representation of the individual female victim within the RJ movement has not been adequately resolved and remains deeply problematic. To illustrate my arguments, I focus on sentencing circles that are used ostensibly as state-sanctioned alternative criminal justice responses designed to ameliorate the systemic racism and over-incarceration rates that Aboriginal peoples experience in postcolonial jurisdictions such as Canada and Australia. I argue that these restorative-like experience are especially vulnerable to intersectional disempowerment. In these RJ models, it becomes unclear whether intersectional approaches can sustain the particular needs and interests of victimized women.

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