Institutionalized Feminism? The Case of a Domestic Violence Court

Emily B. Horowitz, The New York Academy of Medicine

The presentation explores the structure and ideology of an institutionalized organization that addresses an issue first identified and addressed by a social movement. Sociological studies in recent years have examined the potential for social movement organizations to persist and continue to promote the goals of the social movements of the 1960s. This study examines what happens when social movements and their organizations are successful at pressuring institutions to recognize and address their issues, and the extent to which instituionalized responses can retain links to social movement ideology and goals.

Domestic violence courts are a specific example of institutionalized organizations that address an issue first conceptualized by the feminist movement in the 1960s. This dissertation closely examines the process and ideology of a felony-level domestic violence court in New York City in order to assess its relationship to the feminist and battered women's movement. The method of field research, including in-depth interviews with those involved in the planning and work of the court, as well non-participant, onsite courtroom observations, is utilized in an effort to unearth the politics and ideology embedded in the structure and practice of the organization.

This study details the origins of domestic violence courts in the feminist and battered women's movements, and present findings from analyses of court publications and evaluations, courtroom observations, and structured, in-depth interviews with court staff. Additionally, conclusions about the impact of institutionalization on social movement ideology, and asseses the potential for institutionalized organizations to effectively promote social movement goals.

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Updated 05/20/2006