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Moving in a State of Fear: Ambiguity, Gendered Temporality and the Phenomenology of Anticipating Violence

Twemlow, Joy; Turner, Catherine; Swaine, Aisling

Moving in a State of Fear: Ambiguity, Gendered Temporality and the Phenomenology of Anticipating Violence Thumbnail


Aisling Swaine


This article adopts a feminist phenomenological method to flesh out the way in which gendered norms position the experience of anticipating violence. While women’s everyday lives are frequently polluted with an atmosphere laden with potential threats, the law struggles to adequately grasp this experience of anticipating violence. We argue that the dominant legal understanding of violence is incapable of grasping the experience of anticipating violence because the temporal focus of violence is constrained by the law’s focus on violence as an ‘event’ to which it responds. Drawing on interviews with women in positions of leadership in Northern Ireland we provide a description of this gendered experience of anticipating violence. In these cases, women occupy a temporally and spatially stretched out space of being-in-anticipation that not only creates an atmosphere of ambiguity but restricts the space for women to exercise control over their own lives. Arguably the way that anticipation restricts women’s ways of engaging with the world create affective conditions that parallel those of the violence they seek to avoid. We conclude by proposing that the ambiguity that characterises anticipation leaves space for a compassionate response through intersubjective recognition.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 25, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 23, 2023
Journal Australian Feminist Law Journal
Print ISSN 1320-0968
Electronic ISSN 2204-0064
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 1
Pages 87-111
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Copyright Statement
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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