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Cruel AttachmentsThe Ritual Rehab of Child Molesters in Germany$
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John Borneman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226233888

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226234076.001.0001

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Knowledgeability and the Materiality of Child Sex Abuse

Knowledgeability and the Materiality of Child Sex Abuse

(p.142) Four Knowledgeability and the Materiality of Child Sex Abuse
Cruel Attachments

John Borneman

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores knowledgeability and its relation to symbolization of sex abuse. How do child sex offenders come to know the act of child sex abuse? Most offenders initially claim that the accusations are false, misleading, or only partially true, and most have problems bringing the act into speech. Based on a case study of a father accused of stroking his 4 ½ year old daughter while she gratified herself (Selbstbefriedigung), this chapter draws attention to the materiality of the act on which the experience of the child and the sequence of events surrounding it is built, and how this materiality is reshaped as it is brought into speech. Although speaking the deed gives new and concrete form to the event called abuse, that event nonetheless has a materiality independent of language and thus is not reducible to the discourse about it. The chapter demonstrates the limits of the discourse/power theory of Michel Foucault and the theory of performativity of Judith Butler, arguing that the experience of abuse lacks the systematicity to be explained by concepts such as “thought” and “interpellation,” and its meaning is communicated unconsciously, taking into account that which could not become material information for a court of law.

Keywords:   knowledgeability, empathy, divorce, materiality, interiority, fieldwork, discourse, thought, events, empathy

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