'Love hurts' Paper at International Gender Studies LMH Oxford University. 09.November 2017


"Love hurts": the multifaceted lived experiences, ramifications and regulations of Intimate Partner Violence in Freetown, Sierra Leone


Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork on (sexual) relationships, domestic violence and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in post-war and post Ebola Freetown, Sierra Leone, this paper maps the complex interconnection between gendered expectations, generated by social, economic, and cultural conditions, and the daily lived reality of men and women.

During my interviews, the stories of relationships were diverse and encompassed a wide range of sexual interactions and dynamics. Intimate Partner Violence on the other hand, was a ubiquitous concern, and a central theme that united many of these narratives. Social pressures to perform expected roles of masculinity and femininity, along with the insecurities attendant upon what these ideals mean in a rapidly changing social landscape lie at the heart of forms of violence, and the endurance of those who suffer it.

For most of my respondents, Intimate Partner Violence has come to demonstrate the intactness of a relationship and to prevent its dismantling. It is executed, endured and even expected as a demonstration of affection. The structures of punishment and domination are embedded in a specific understanding of woman- and manhood. In this context, violence can be interpreted as a form of communication.

My paper discusses the difficult issue of how domestic violence and Intimate Partner Violence function, not as a disruption of the norm, but as the norm within a system of social acceptance through an anthropological lens. I focus on the ways relationships are lived and on the multi-layered personal experiences and attitudes of those perpetrating, witnessing and suffering Intimate Partner violence and domestic violence.

I furthermore analyse existing laws and services. My work therefore explores the execution, endurance, mediation, and regulation as well as the socio-cultural, legal, and political ramifications of acts of Intimate Partner Violence and domestic violence in Freetown.


International Gender Studies Seminar Series, Lady Margaret Hall, Thursday November 9, 2.30pm - 3.30pm. link to LMH Homepage.