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Violence and Gender in Malawi

Short Description of the Research Project:
Recent studies estimate that 30% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners, and estimates reach over 70% in some countries. In Malawi, a country in Sub-saharan Africa, violence has historically been very common. Recent efforts to reduce violence have been introduced by several foreign aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations during the past decade. This project considers whether these projects have had an impact on the level of intimate partner violence in Malawi and on Malawians’ attitudes toward such violence.

This project employs several sources of data, including nationally representative surveys, foreign aid and nongovernmental organization reports and statistics, qualitative interviews, and ethnographic observations from the Malawi Journals Project. In addition, this project leverages a large collection of all newspaper articles in Malawi since 2000 that have discussed intimate partner violence. Through these myriad sources of data, this project seeks to illustrate the historical emergence of intimate partner violence as a source of concern amongst Malawians, and to estimate the effects of the international campaign to combat such violence in Malawi. Besides illuminating the details of the case of intimate partner violence in Malawi, this research project also seeks to expand sociological theories of how transnational cultural movements diffuse through multiple layers of a society and reshape longstanding cultural beliefs, values, and practices.

Duties to be performed by undergraduate:
Students participating in this project will have three potential roles as research assistants.

First, students will help develop a coding system for hundreds of Malawian newspaper articles that discuss intimate partner violence. Students will then help to code the articles according to this system. This experience will teach students qualitative data collection and analysis skills, as well as inform them about on-the-ground cases of violence.

Second, students will conduct a literature review related to the emergence of intimate partner violence as a source of political concern. This historical research will be a natural flow from reading and coding the newspaper articles because it will require the students to draw upon their new knowledge to create a historical timeline of events that led intimate partner violence to become important in Malawian politics and society. In addition, students will also be asked to investigate when and how intimate partner violence became an important political issue in North America and Europe. I will provide them with some background literature for this which they can use to construct similar historical timelines.

Third, students will be asked to gather important statistics on rates of intimate partner violence in Malawi by drawing on many project reports produced by foreign aid agencies. I will provide the students with these documents and instruct them as to what types of statistics I am looking for in particular. Students will read these reports and gather the reported statistics as directed. Having done this, they will then create graphs of how issues surrounding intimate partner violence in Malawi (such as police reports, public opinion attitudes, citizens joining voluntary initiatives to oppose violence, etc.) have changed over time.

Supervising Faculty Advisor:
Arland Thornton

Graduate Student:
Jeffrey Swindle

Interested Students Should Contact:
Jeffrey Swindle –

Approximate Hours Per Week:
3 hours per credit enrolled

Range of Credit Hours:

Number of Positions Available:

Term work will commence:
Winter 2018