Elon professor receives $112,000 grant for institute on philosophical approaches to sexual violence

The grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will support a two-week institute directed by Professor Ann J. Cahill in the department of philosophy.

International experts on the philosophical issues that arise from sexual violence will gather next summer at Elon University for an institute funded by a grant of nearly $112,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

<p>Ann J. Cahill, professor of philosophy&nbsp;</p>
Led by Elon University Professor Ann J. Cahill, the June 2017 program will allow a rare gathering of more than two dozen educators from universities around the country to interact with top scholars who research questions surrounding sexual violence. 

The topic of the institute is a central area of Cahill’s own scholarship including her 2001 book “Rethinking Rape” and multiple articles on the topic in recent years. The gathering of scholars seeks to address questions such as, “how can the humanities help us make sense of the perverse pervasiveness of sexual violence?” and “what can philosophy contribute to the public discourse about an issue as complex as sexual assault?”

Participating as visiting scholars in the institute along with Cahill are:

  • Debra Bergoffen, American University
  • Susan Brison, Dartmouth College
  • Louise du Toit, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Nicola Gavey, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Renee Heberle, University of Toledo
  • Sarah Clark Miller, Penn State University

Participants in the institute will be selected through an application process. While many are likely to come from the field of philosophy, the institute is multidisciplinary, with other fields that might include literary criticism, sociology, psychology, political science and interdisciplinary fields such as women’s and gender studies, queer studies and cultural studies. 

Cahill said the opportunity to host the institute comes during a period of resurgence of academic interest in the topic.

“Scholarship around the philosophical questions of sexual violence has risen to a level of sophistication and richness that I thought bringing these people together and giving younger scholars the experience of immersing themselves in the topic for a few weeks could produce some great new scholarship,” Cahill said.

 The two-week institute will offer participants the opportunity to interact in group and one-on-one settings with Cahill and six other leaders in the field of philosophy and sexual violence. Topics may include “consent and its limits,” “power, inequality and resistance” and “globalism, localism and difference.”

“To me, it is such an exciting possibility to have participants be able to see and witness some of the best thinkers in the field disagree with each other, to see those points of convergence and divergence,” Cahill said.

Afternoons during the institute will be spent in one-on-one meetings with the top scholars or working on independent research within the field. Cahill expects some participants to arrive at the institute with early research work that is refined during the two-week period, and others to sow the seeds of future research projects while participating.

Cahill said the NEH offered additional funding for the project so that it would be held as an institute, meaning that not every participant will be undertaking a research project, with some looking to develop expertise within the field they’ll integrate into teaching back at their home campuses.