pluralities of violence

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Refers to the myriad ways in which violence manifests itself: as structural, cultural, symbolic, and direct. Looking at the intersections between different forms of violence enables us to understand the intransigent and circular nature of violence. Structural violence shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances: for example, deprivation, poverty, colonialism, imperialism. Cultural violence is the way in which those who lack economic and political power have aspects of their ‘culture’ negated, denigrated, and delegitimized: for example, ethnic, religious, or caste discrimination. Symbolic violence involves relations and mechanisms of domination and power which do not arise from overt physical force or violence on the body. It clearly lacks the intentional and instrumental quality of brute violence, and works not directly on bodies but through them: through symbolic interactions, behaviour, language, and modes of conduct. Direct violence involves physical violence on the body. In specific contexts, plural forms of violence could nurture and support one another. Ethnic wars and the embedded impunity of dominant ethnic groups can be conceptualized as a form of structural violence which allows denigration and hatred for ‘others’ (cultural violence). This hatred can be reflected through language and symbols (symbolic violence) and provide legitimacy to all forms of direct violence (killings, wartime crimes).

Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert


Subjects: Politics.

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