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Berkeley Talks: Scholars on new book, ‘Atmospheres of Violence’

Panelists discuss UC Berkeley professor Eric Stanley's 2021 book that interrogates why, despite advances in LGBT rights in the U.S., anti-trans violence continues to rise

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two photos: portrait of Eric Stanley and a cover of their book, 'Atmospheres of Violence'

Eric Stanley is an associate professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and author of the new book, Atmospheres of Violence. (Othering & Belonging Institute photo)

In Berkeley Talks episode 128, a panel of artists, organizers and academics discuss UC Berkeley professor Eric Stanley’s 2021 book, Atmospheres of Violence: Structuring Antagonism and the Trans/Queer Ungovernable, which interrogates why, in a time when LGBT rights are advancing in the U.S., anti-trans violence continues to rise.

Stanley began by reading an excerpt from the book:

“I, too, was an errant youth,” read Stanley at the Nov. 2 event. “By the age of 14, I had already been expelled from school for the second and final time. I was charged with truancy, which was the name they gave my attempt to escape the extended torment of public education. It was then, as it is now, much easier to banish the survivor and to produce us as the problem of our own making than it is to confront violence’s grind. My chronic absence was narrated as disruptive, not because I was actively distracting others, but because I exposed the fragility of that which kept us in class by escaping it.”

In their book, Stanley writes that although we’re supposedly living in a time of LGBT inclusion in the U.S., as evidenced by the legal expansion of marriage, lesbian and gay military recruitment and the proliferation of LGBT characters in popular visual culture, it is this inclusion that most properly names the state’s violent expansion.

“Eric’s argument that things get worse when we’re told they get better is so profound still,” said panelist Dean Spade, an associate professor at Seattle University School of Law. “Even though we could narrate all of the other fake progress the United States government has made in supposedly protecting hated groups … it’s very powerful the way that Eric tells those stories through these sites of violence and really shows how that works. I just feel like I can’t get enough of that question because it’s so profoundly opposite of what we are supposed to think about progress.”

Panelists included:

  • Angela Y. Davis, professor emerita, UC Santa Cruz
  • Dean Spade, professor, Seattle University School of Law
  • Eric A. Stanley, associate professor, UC Berkeley
  • Jules Gill-Peterson, associate professor, Johns Hopkins University
  • LaVelle Ridley, Ph.D. candidate, University of Michigan
  • Moderated by Courtney Desiree Morris, artist and assistant professor, UC Berkeley

This event was co-sponsored by Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Center for Research on Social Change, the Center for Race and Gender and the American Cultures Center.

Read more about Atmospheres of Violence on Berkeley News.

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