Institute for Social Justice

Violence and Non-Violence

How should we address questions of violence and non-violence in the contemporary world?

What are the political, ethical and epistemic difficulties involved in addressing the questions of what violence is, how it operates, and how to respond to it?

Does political violence mean only physical harm done to individuals? Or must it also include the myriad state practices of systemic injustice and subjugation, as well as other forms of dispossession and wounding, and those harms traditionally relegated to the private domain, such as sexual violence. How should we understand non-violence? What distinguishes practices of non-violence, not only as practices that renounce or abstain from violence, but as alternative political, relational, and affective projects that outline other ways to resist oppression and bring about social and political transformation through peaceful means. ISJ researchers and professorial fellows examine violence and non-violence in the diverse contexts of gender, race, religion, torture, neo-colonialism and imperialism, law, the psychic life of the subject and the suffering of non-humans.

Linda Alcoff ‘s work explores the self-constituting effects of certain sorts of social practices and experiences, particularly sexual violence. These topics intersect her epistemological interests and the relationship between one’s epistemic credibility and one’s specific subjectivity as, for example, a woman or as a survivor of sexual violence. Rajeev Bhargava transitional societies as they contend with post-apartheid and post-partition violence and injustice. He also looks at ancient roots of civility and non-violence in societies with deep religious and philosophical diversity. Romand Coles explores the visions and entanglements of violence and nonviolence in Christian theology and democratic theories and practices of radical transformation. Naser Ghobadzadeh is examining the darker passages of Islamic scriptures that sanction violence. Questioning the oversimplified accounts of these passages, his research projects intend to unravel the complexities of theme through exploring the religio-moral imperatives and normative conditions embedded in these passages. Kiran Grewal focuses on the ways in which continuums of violence are obscured in institutional and/or public responses to harms like sexual violence and torture. Jacqueline Rose is investigating forms of sexual violence from a feminist perspective, drawing upon Melanie Klein and Hannah Arendt. Magdalena Zolkos researches the formation of political subjectivity in the situations of historical violence and historical injustice, including trauma theory and affect theory, restitutive, reconciliatory and reparative politics, and public memorialization.