While some recent studies proclaim a drastic decline of violence, according to some other studies, it has escalated to the point where war has become the main organizing principle of society. Whatever we believe to be the present situation, we have to ask ourselves about different forms of violence. At its most obvious level, violence can be defined as the destruction of our physical existence, as well as of its symbolic representations in language and other institutions. Phenomenologically speaking, violence affects our basic capacities for making sense. It alters our basic intentional openness to ourselves, to the world and to others.
According to Galtung, an extended concept of violence is indispensable. This is why he distinguishes personal (or direct) violence, from structural (or indirect). In both cases, individuals may be killed or mutilated, hit or hurt and manipulated in some way. However, whereas in the first case these consequences can be traced back to concrete persons as actors, in the second case this is no longer possible or meaningful. In other words, violence is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances. While personal violence is visible, structural is silent. It does not show itself. This is why it has often not been recognized as violence and why attention has been focused more on personal violence. Those aspects of culture (religion, ideology, language, art, empirical science and formal science) that can be used to justify both, personal or structural violence are actually different forms of cultural violence.
Thanks to the work of Sorel, Benjamin, Arendt, Fanon, Foucault, Derrida, Galtung, Agamben, Butler, Virilio, Cavarero, Evans, and many others, we are aware that when it comes to violence, there is no totalizing truth. It is not some objective condition or natural state of affairs, but a complex phenomenon that defies neat description. Violence is an integral part of our social reality and it has a profound place in literature, music, performing and visual arts, and popular culture. In 1949, Adorno famously claimed that to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric, but this statement calls for a deeper understanding and questioning of the complex entanglement between violence and culture. How to accomodate or creatively direct violence through different forms of arts? Is it even possible to do that? Violence today assumes unheard-of-forms and it becomes difficult to find proper words to designate it in contemporary languages. This is why Cavarero introduces the term horrorism.
* This course offer ECTS credits - for more informations please contact coures-directors