Spotlight on SVSH Campus Research

June 01, 2022

Alison Hanson, Graduate Student, Anthropology department


Many campus members are advancing research on preventing, responding to, and addressing gender-based violence, harassment, and discrimination. 

This month we are spotlighting: 

Alison Hanson

Scripting Sexual Violence: The Politics and Poetics of Title IX at UCSC

About Alison:

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Anthropology Department, and I use she/her pronouns. My scholarship draws on feminist, legal, linguistic, and medical approaches to anthropology.  I study how student survivors of sexual violence maneuver within institutional, policy, and ideological constraints to build worlds out of violence.

My research is informed by and informs practical efforts to create a more safe, inclusive, and empathetic campus community. Since 2017, I have participated in service activities that aim to foster student- and survivor-centered policies and practices on campus, including on the Beyond Compliance leadership committee, the UCOP Title IX Student Advisory Board, and UCSC's Coordinated Community Review Team (CCRT) for sexual and gender-based violence. I am CA state-certified as a sexual assault and domestic violence peer counselor and formerly worked as a confidential advocate and prevention educator with the UCSC CARE office from 2019-2021.

In addition to research, I bring a commitment to supporting students in my role as a teaching assistant in Anthropology and Feminist Studies. I strive to give back to my community through volunteering and mentorship; I have formally mentored students through the M.I.N.T. program by the Womxn’s Center and Koret Scholars. I have two dogs and rejuvenate myself by spending as much time outdoors as possible!

About Alison’s research project, Scripting Sexual Violence: The Politics and Poetics of Title IX at UCSC:

My dissertation, Scripting Sexual Violence: The Politics and Poetics of Title IX, studies how students navigate experiences of sexual violation on campus within and outside of institutional offices. At the heart of my ethnography is a concern with world-making: how are survivor’s experiences negotiated through campus support services, Title IX policy, and dominant cultural understandings of sexual violence and consent? I used ethnographic methods of interviews, surveys, and participant-observation to conduct in-depth research for three years at UCSC, while carefully attending to confidentiality and safety for my interlocutors. 

As I listened to survivors share their stories in public events, on social media, in advocacy, and in legalistic sites, I found that language they used to describe harm and consent often referenced institutional policies and practices. I draw on medico-legal anthropological scholarship of “scripting” to refer to the discursive and normative processes that guide survivors into particular pathways for recovery and justice. My research illuminates how survivors articulate, re-write, and refuse those scripts to stake claims for equity, justice, and belonging. Ultimately, I argue that we must broaden our capacities for witnessing that more fully accounts for survivors’ intersectional identities, lived experiences, and aspirations.

In the wake of #MeToo and increasing contestations over Title IX regulation, my research has broad implications for enhancing equity within and beyond UCSC. By drawing attention to processes of scripting and refusal, I counter victim-blaming, sexist, and racist narratives that stereotype who a survivor is and how they should respond. I am indebted to the students who contributed to my project and uplift their impulse to share their stories in service of social change. In efforts to give back, my dissertation aims to provide practical models that contribute to more inclusive educational practices and community prevention efforts.

To learn more about Alison’s research, contact:

Learn more about the research happening on the UC Santa Cruz campus via our monthly spotlights (see previous spotlights here). 

Submit your own research to be featured. Spotlights will resume in Fall 2022, submissions can be made at any time!