Miami Law Hosts Converge! – A Conference on Gender Violence



"Converge! Re-imagining the Movement to End Gender Violence" conference will take place on February 7th and 8th at Miami Law. Born of the frustration with the excessive reliance on criminalization to address gender violence, CONVERGE! brings together survivors, activists, and academics to reconsider the dominant U.S. responses to gender violence, to build capacity for political mobilization and reform, to share innovative approaches to gender violence, and to promote cross-fertilization and collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and activists.

The conference is organized around the themes of structural inequality and gender violence, re-imagining mobilization against gender violence, and alternatives to criminal justice strategies. The ultimate goal of CONVERGE! is to build a transformative political agenda to refocus U.S. priorities in funding, activism, law, and social services in ways that better address the intersecting inequalities that create and maintain gender violence.

"Converge! is unlike any other conference because it brings together activists, attorneys, academics, survivors, and service providers from all over the country," said Miami Law Professor Donna Coker, who conceived of the conference. "This alone is unusual to have this kind of interdisciplinary, cross-boundaries conversation. In addition, the conference's focus is not just on violence by individuals, but the ways in which the state perpetrates violence. We will expand our thinking about responses to gender based violence locally and nationally."

Keynote speaker Dr. Beth Richie is the Director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy and Professor of African American Studies and Criminology, Law and Justice at The University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation. Richie's scholarly and activist work explores the ways that race/ethnicity and social position affect women's experience of violence and incarceration, focusing on the experiences of African American battered women and sexual assault survivors.

CONVERGE! is co-chaired by Professor Coker, Marcia Olivo of the Miami Workers Center Sisterhood of Survivors, one of the few membership organizations made up of survivors of gender violence, and Leigh Goodmark, Co-Director of the Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law. For three decades, Professor Coker has been a nationally recognized expert in the field of domestic violence and a leading critic of "crime-centered" approach to domestic violence. Olivo has been named by the NOVO foundation as a Movement Maker in the movement to end gender based violence and has extensive community organizing and activist experience. Goodmark has represented victims of gender violence for more than twenty years; her new book, A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System, has opened up a national debate about the continued reliance on the legal system, particularly the criminal justice system, as the primary response to domestic violence in the United States.

The conference is unique in its creation of space for local survivors of gender-based violence to actively participate to the policy and mobilization conversations. Moreover, law students, led by Professor Coker, have been instrumental in bringing the conference together.

Leading scholars and practitioners in the field of gender violence from around the nation will discuss issues ranging from "crimmigration" to sex trafficking to alternatives to criminal justice responses. Miami Law's Race & Social Justice Law Review will publish the papers electronically as well as in a paper volume. The conference will include eleven UM faculty from the fields of law, education, and nursing as well as interdisciplinary undergraduate students in Women & Gender Studies and others. It is an unusual combination of grassroots organizations, local community members, academics, and national leaders.

The University of Miami School of Law, University of Miami School of Law Race & Social Justice Law Review, Miami Worker's Center Sisterhood of Survivors, and Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law are hosting the event.

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