Paper short abstract:
The dichotomy violence-peace entraps our thought, and that dismantling it is a prerequisite for grasping the complexities of contemporary social realities. Cultural specificities of violence notwithstanding, Benjamin’s and Agamben’s ‘state of exception’ may prove an inspiring framework for this integration in the contemporary world.
Paper long abstract:
'Peace' and 'violence' constitute hegemonic modern (Western?) ideas and phantasies which are embedded in our very thinking of the social. Intertwined with images of civilisation and barbarism, they have become a fundamental tool-kit in othering non-Western societies up to the present, in their representation as sites of violence, Western societies being defined thereby as sites of peace. Although explicit zoning of violence and peace has not gained much currency in anthropology, a manifest tendency to focus on violence in its outstanding material occurences in non-Western contexts implicitly hints at that direction. At the same time, although several strands of social theory come to question this divide, and many anthropological studies document the blurring of boundaries between peace and violence in many contexts, it seems hard to integrate them in the same frame of analysis and to conceive of violence as an aspect of the social.
In this paper then, I will argue that the dichotomy violence-peace entraps our thought, leading to reproduction and legitimation of hegemonic ideas about the social order, and about violence itself, and that dismantling it is a prerequisite for grasping the complexities of contemporary social realities. Arguing for a shift of focus to the less impressive and perceptible manifestations of violence as a way to unravel its permanent presence in all societies, including the 'peaceful' West, I will suggest that cultural specificities of violence notwithstanding, Benjamin's and Agamben's 'state of exception' may prove an inspiring framework for this integration in the contemporary world.
Connecting peace and violence: zones, transgressions and causes