Governing domestic violence : 'doing' government, police realities and feminisms in policy activities

Estridge, Lydia Margaret (2004). Governing domestic violence : 'doing' government, police realities and feminisms in policy activities. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis uses a discursive approach to examine how 'government', Chief Officer 'police realities' and 'feminisms' are accomplished as 'doings' in domestic violence policy activities across the decade 1990-2000. The main reasons for undertaking this research were absences in the governmentality literature around domestic violence, gender, analyses of power and changes in political government; unease about 'police culture' having slipped from currency in academic debate about the policing of domestic violence; and concern about what happens to feminisms in the government policy-making context.

Drawing on domestic violence policy documents, produced in the period 1990-2000, my main arguments are that 'doing' government is largely demonstrable in the activities of problem formulation, constituting victims and forwarding 'working together'; and that much government truth-telling is founded on the claim of 'the already responsible government'. Chief Officers of police also self-present as already fulfilling their responsibilities; constituting their versions of reality through identity-work, boundary-work and the mobilisation of gender as an occasional resource. In contrast, 'doing' feminism seems less robust. It appears in organisational naming, forwarding causes of domestic violence which are not permissive of women blaming and formulating subjects of representation. But none of these activities are named as or bounded to 'feminism' per se.

Changes in political government appear to impact differently on these various 'doings'. New Labour attempts to extend more control than the Conservatives over policy community members, gender(ed) understandings of domestic violence and local 'crime' matters. Chief Officers attune to shifts in government guidance but appear to use these truths in the service of their own transactional business. By comparison, shifts in the positions from which feminists speak appear to effect changes in their warranting strategies and exercisings of power. Thus there is a sense that 'feminisms' are perhaps the more malleable versions of reality in this context.

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