This study explores how the concept of wife abuse is culturally constructed through an examination of two battered women's shelters, one in the United States and one in Ecuador. In contrast to most of the literature on domestic violence which evaluates wife abuse as an individual pathology or the result of a particular set of social variables, this study focuses on how the concept of domestic violence is problematized in the United States and Ecuador. Drawing on di Leonardo's perspective of feminist anthropology, this study looks at how particular cultural, political and economic contexts shape the perceived meaning of domestic violence and the nature of the shelters' responses to it. Qualitative data gathered in San Rafael, Ecuador in the spring of 1994 and Wooster, Ohio in the fall of 1994 includes formal documents, transcripts of interviews with shelter board, staff, and clients and observations made during the four months of field work in each shelter. The findings reveal that batered women's shelters are a Western cultural form and to a certain extent, the shelters' broadly share similar characterists such as shelter structure and counseling services. Yet the specific assumptions that the women and staff of the respective institutions make concerning the shelter client's identity, expectations for the clients after they leave the shelter, and appropriate ways of child discipline reflect the cultural milieu in which the shelters are situated. This study suggests that battered women's shelters operate under notions of domestic violence that are shaped by each shelters' cultural setting.


McConnell, David


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 1995 Emily K. Fortney