Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Faflak, Joel

2nd Supervisor

Plug, Jan

Joint Supervisor


This thesis describes the structures an institution, specifically the university, deploys to absorb testimonies of violence in order to strengthen its existing policies, norms, and operations. I consider testimonies by survivors of sexual violence, who demand the end of the current order of the university and its existing policies. Some of these structures are symbolic exchange, the production of knowledge, the logic of repression and liberation, and the work of mourning. I suggest these discursive structures protect the existing boundaries of universities while lending them the authority to speak on behalf of survivors. Therefore, rather than engage in an archeology of violence (creating an archive of violence by speaking on behalf of survivors), this thesis determines the basis for immediate collective action by engaging with Jacques Derrida’s The Gift of Death as well as Derrida’s consideration of the specter in Specters of Marx. I argue that these texts contain collective possibilities for destroying the subject/other dichotomy that positions the subject to know the extent of another’s wounds, to speak in their place, or to offer compensation to them. Moving beyond this dichotomy, I argue that the gift of death signifies a collective space of resistance. By challenging the university’s existing functions of exchange in order to reconstitute how it absorbs testimonies of sexual abuse, this space ensures that those who testify will be listened to and acted for immediately.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis examines how an interruption of the knowledge procedures in the university is possible by considering several testimonies of gender-based violence. The primary structure I examine is the repressive hypothesis and how it determines the boundaries, discourse, and location of testimony beforehand. The secondary structure I consider is the production of knowledge from testimony. The final structure I detail is the work of mourning where the university provides compensation to survivors of gender-based violence without any transformation change to its structure. I formulate a response to these structures by arguing for a micropolitics of immediate action through a blend of theoretical influences such as Jacques Derrida's concept of the "gift of death" and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concept the "rhizome".