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Holiday considers origins of violence, feminism and personhood

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Jacob Barriga
Staff Writer

Judy Holiday, associate professor of rhetoric and communication studies, spoke on the topics of societal assumptions and perceptions of violence, and on the topic of Western personhood and how it relates to indigenous and feminist ideologies Tuesday via WebEx before an online audience of 37. 

Her talk was part of the weekly faculty lecture series.

Holiday said that human beings are hardwired with aggression, but that it often gets correlated with violence. Human beings are just as wired with empathy, compassion and cooperation, which provides people with a choice of value in our actions, she said adding that when we are exposed to violence at a young age, violent behaviors become normalized in our society.

“Violence is a cancer for our society,” Holiday said. “There is a need in our society to have law and order and it may stem from the capitalistic, competition-filled environment our society has established.”

Holiday said she believes there are some steps our generation has already taken to help change this toxic environment and will continue to chip away at societal norms to provide a more inclusive and loving environment for those who come after them.

“This next generation is already pushing against the heteronormative beliefs that have stood for countless generations before them,” Holiday said. 

Marcia Godwin, professor of public administration, who attended the lecture, agreed that violence is not a natural human reaction.

“Our social construction has embedded violence into our upbringings, but children are not intuitively violent,” said Godwin. 

Luke Garcia, a sophomore psychology major who also attended, said that Holiday’s message about our culture’s comfort with violence rang true to him. 

“Violence is embedded in our culture, but it is not the solution,” Garcia said. “There must be a balance between aggression and compassion.”

Holiday also discussed the Western conception of personhood and how it compares to the Native American and feminist conception of personhood. Western society has used racial categories that have shaped our perception of each other and have affected our lives and how we interact with each other. Native American and feminist ideology prioritizes mind and body and being interconnected with not only other people but also with the land and the environment they live in.

“Western society uses animising rhetoric which creates the corporate conception of personhood, leading to ownership and control of our surroundings,” Holiday said. “Therefore, we want to own land,” Holiday said. “Feminist and indigenous conception, which is focused on relationality, being aware of the dependence on the environment we live in, and how we react with the other elements in our surroundings contrast and provides a platform for critique of the Western ideology.”

Holiday wrote a book about her studies and was set to publish the book before Holiday took a self-reflection and decided she, as a white woman, was not in the position to take credit for her studies as much of her findings were of indigenous beliefs.

Al Clark, professor of humanities, hosted the meeting and had praise for Holiday’s discussion.

“Holiday has a deep understanding of the material, and her subject matter was thought-provoking and her discussions of violence were impressive,” said Clark.

Jacob Barriga can be reached at

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