Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair

Guest lecture by Sarah Schulman, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, AIDS historian, journalist, and active participant citizen.


From intimate relationships to global politics, Sarah Schulman observes a continuum: that inflated accusations of harm are used to avoid accountability. Illuminating the difference between Conflict and Abuse, Schulman directly addresses our contemporary culture of scapegoating. Her work reveals how punishment replaces personal and collective self-criticism, and shows why difference is so often used to justify cruelty and shunning. Rooting the problem of escalation in negative group relationships, Schulman illuminates the ways cliques, communities, families, and religious, racial, and national groups bond through the refusal to change their self-concept. She illustrates how Supremacy behavior and Traumatized behavior resemble each other, through a shared inability to tolerate difference.


Sarah Schulman is Co-Founder of MIX: NY LGBT Experimental Film and Video Festival, Co-Director of ACT UP Oral History Project, and the US Coodinator of the first LGBT Delegation to Palestine. Professor Schulman was also the Coordinator of the HOMONATIONALISM and PINKWASHING CONFERENCE at the City University of New York Graduate Center, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (April, 2013). Sarah Schulman is also on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is a fellow at the NY Institute for the Humanities at NYU.

The lecture is organized by Mathias Danbolt, Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, and is funded by Independent Research Found Denmark.