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Public Feeling Dissident Acts Programmes

Cultures of Consent: Examining the Complexity of Sexual Misconduct and Power in UK Universities (SG162969)

 British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant | Media, Communications and Cultural Studies

Goldsmiths College, UoL,

October 2017 - June 2018

'Cultures of Consent' is a one-year (2017-18), British Academy funded project on staff-to-student sexual misconduct in British universities that began in August 2017. Work for the project has completed by Professor Lisa Blackman (Principal Investigator), Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam (Deputy Investigator) and Chloe Turner (Research Assistant).

The terms “cultures of sexual misconduct” and “sexual harassment culture” that are often used within the sexual harassment discussions are significant. They remind us that individual acts have long histories and that they are shaped by and shape the circulation of “public feelings” within institutions. 'Cultures of Consent' builds on the important work of academics and activists who have identified some of the ways in which these public feelings can manifest. These include, the cultures of neoliberal universities, sexist pedagogy and curricula, bodily capital (who and what is accorded value), the mental health crisis within universities, as well as the more ephemeral ways in which knowledge and awareness of sexual misconduct can circulate through rumours, gossip, anecdotes gestures and silences.

Those complex institutional cultures intersect with the psychosocial histories that students bring to university cultures. Such histories and cultures can be mobilized, recruited, amplified and channeled through practices of grooming, coercion, intimidation, manipulation and sexual force and also can become the sites of personal and political resistance. There are class, raced and sexed dimensions to these dynamics that remain underexplored within the current literature..

In order to begin to understand these issues we proposed intersectional approaches that can understand the psychosocial dimensions of “consent”, that are attentive to the liveliness of sexism and cultures of sexual harassment that exist in schooling, education, media cultures, sport, politics, the family, literature and so forth. This is important to not only allow cultures of sexual misconduct in Higher Education to be identified but also to shape a counter set of “public feelings” with the aim of intervening in and stopping the proliferation of cultures of sexual harassment.

The 'Cultures of Consent' project culminated in:

- An online Centre for Feminist Research blog summary of our discussions

- An accessible literature archive that we drew on to sum up our findings

- The inauguration of a cross-institutional network of researchers to facilitate future knowledge exchange.

- An internal series of Goldsmiths events within the feminist community 'Public Feeling Goldsmiths' through the Feminist Postgraduate Forum designed and run by Chloe Turner.

- A national conference to present the projects findings.

Public Feelings, Dissident Acts: Dismantling Cultures of Sexual Harassment in UK Universities

Centre for Feminist Research
Goldsmiths College, UoL

18th June 2018

This national conference introduced the findings of a British Academy funded project 'Cultures of Consent: Examining the complexity of sexual misconduct and power within Universities' hosted by the Centre for Feminist Research.

The day invited dialogue on how cultures of sexual violation can exist and circulate through feelings, gestures and atmospheres that are difficult to name and act against. Throughout we heard from artists, activists and researchers who have been developing innovative and counter cultural practices to intervene in these toxic circuits of feeling.

Full details of the event schedule and speakers on the Centre for Feminist Research blog