Toronto professor dissects historical impact of violence


Participating in the historic lynching of George Armwood on Oct. 16, 1933 transformed people, said Lee Ann Fujii.

Fujii, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, led a conversation yesterday in Hickman Hall on Douglass campus about her upcoming book. The book, which is currently untitled, will include three historical events referencing public acts of violence. 

Armwood was a black man accused of assaulting a white female. His body, which was lynched twice and mutilated multiple times, was a spectacle for onlookers that day in Maryland.

“This display inscribed a certain brand of whiteness,” Fijii said. “It was the absolute control over a black body. This reasserted people of their position in society.”

Fijii discussed a deeper meaning to public violence — meanings that can range from race to gender to needing that sense of “belonging” to a community.

Cassie King-Burgos, a graduate student, asked what violence really means, and what it requires.

“You mentioned that there can be this state level of violence through incarceration or drown strikes, and are we performing in violence just by watching the violent video,” King-Burgos said.

Her question sparked a debate surrounding the idea of whether or not violence needs to be physical.

“Violence does not have to be physical,” Fujii said. “In fact, people that watch violence partake in it as well.”

During the Maryland lynching, Fujii said members of a church remained inside the church and prayed while they could hear the lynching.

Fujii said these people participated in the violence through their inaction.

Another topic brought up at the talk was Ray Rice, who was seen on video assaulting his then-fiancé` and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.

“There are things not meant to be seen,” Fujii said. “But let’s think about if he had videotaped the incident and posted it. We would interpret the act very different — that is what this book is about.

When people purposely display violence, that garners a very different interpretation, she said.

The Ferguson case was also brought up. 

“At the time, the cops were not thinking this way,” Fujii said. “But the consequences of leaving the body in the ground left volume marks on the public.”

Andrew Greve, a graduate student, attended the event because he is interested in the role of the media relating to violence. 

“Why did we have to show these images,” Greve said. “That’s a hard question to answer.”


Emmanuel German

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