ESRC Seminar Series: Interrogating ‘harm’and ‘abuse’: protection and citizenship across the lifespan

ESRC Seminar Series

Interrogating ‘harm’ and ‘abuse’: protection and citizenship across the lifespan


Invitation to attend and call for poster submissions


17th December 2008, Iris Murdoch Building, University of Stirling


Department of Applied Social Science

University of Stirling

Stirling FK9 4LA


Convenors: Alison Bowes, Kate Cavanagh; Brigid Daniel; Kathryn Mackay


This seminar series focuses on ‘harm’ and ‘abuse’ across the lifespan, and on the responses of individuals, families, communities, professionals and the state. We intend to generate debate amongst stakeholders and academics representing complementary academic disciplines and specialisms in order to create new theoretical perspectives and to advance understanding of issues of protection, agency and citizenship. Four symposia will focus on


i)                    the nature of the problem: i.e. current understandings of the nature and aetiology of elevated risk of harm and abuse associated with different ages, relationships and groups seen as ‘vulnerable’, focusing on ideas such as risk and vulnerability, interpersonal and social relationships; individual agency and responsibility; social, cultural and political contexts of harm and abuse.

ii)                  the most effective response: i.e. existing evidence about the most effective protective response at individual, family, community and state levels to harm and abuse across the lifespan, with emphasis on citizenship, empowerment, resilience, mutual responsibility and the role of the state as protector and/or controller.


In turn, the symposia will explore issues of experience; the concepts of vulnerability and risk; protection and the role of the state; and finally, citizenship. Audiences will be multidisciplinary and involve research users including policy makers and professionals working in relevant fields, as well as citizen advocates. Discussion will develop cumulatively as the series proceeds.


Symposium One: The problem: ‘harm’, abuse’, agency and resilience (17th December 2008, Iris Murdoch Building, University of Stirling)


The first symposium explores the problem of harm and abuse from the point of view of experience, both of ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’. Key concepts to be explored include constructions of ‘harm’ and ‘abuse’ as they vary across fields and across cultures; harm and abuse within interpersonal and intimate relationships, and the responses of victims and perpetrators, including exploration of agency and resilience as concepts which can be explored across fields of interest to develop more sophisticated understandings of the interpersonal dynamics of abuse.


Key questions:

What are the key differences and similarities in experience of harm and abuse across the lifespan? How are ‘harm’ and ‘abuse’ constructed, and who is active in their construction? How are ‘harm’ and ‘abuse’ perpetrated and perpetuated in different intimate relationships? How do we understand the responses of victims and perpetrators? How useful are the concepts of resilience and agency? 

Speakers will include:

Interrogator: Professor Kirstein Rummery

o       Brigid Daniel (University of Stirling) Individual differences in response to adversity

o       Fiona Johnson (University of Dundee) Abuse and protection issues across the lifespan

o       Brid Featherstone (University of Bradford) Contemporary fathers, domestic violence and child welfare

o       Bridget Penhale (University of Sheffield) Elder abuse – current issues

o       Fiona Kelly (University of Stirling) Abusive interactions: research in locked wards for people with dementia


Call for poster presentations

There will be an exhibition of posters at the symposium. You are invited to submit a poster abstract for consideration by the convenors by 31st October 2008. Please send a 200 word abstract to by 31st October at the latest. Ensure that your abstract includes your name and contact details and the title of your poster. Please indicate if you are a PhD student or new researcher (up to 3 years post PhD) and whether you wish to be considered for a bursary (details below). Decisions on abstracts and bursaries will be communicated by mid November.


Poster prize

A prize of a £50 book token will be awarded for the best poster.



Bursaries are available to support attendance by PhD students and new researchers (up to 3 years post PhD). They will be awarded to those in these categories who submit the best poster abstracts. If you wish to be considered for a bursary, let us know when you submit your abstract. Please include an estimate of the costs of travel and accommodation you expect to incur. The funds for bursaries are limited, and we cannot guarantee to cover full expenses.


Invitation to attend

You are invited to attend the seminar. However, places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis, with a number of places reserved for participants from policy and practice contexts. Places will be confirmed during November 2008.


If you would like to attend the Seminar, could you please email Jennifer Gordon ( with your name, contact details, dietary/access requirements,title of submitting poster, abstract and esitmated cost of travel and accomodation for the bursary.