Institute for Social Justice

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Violence, Trauma, Peace

This theme addresses the political, ethical and epistemic difficulties involved in the project of understanding “the problem of violence”—what violence is, how it operates, and how to respond to it. Considering violence in the diverse contexts of gender, religion, torture, imperialism, law, and the psychic life of the subject, the contributors to that theme break down the binary opposition of “violence” and “peace”, and map out the complex terrain of political and affective enactments of and responses to violence.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Paper presentation: Feminism and the Abomination of Violence – Jacqueline Rose

Feminism rightly sees one of its most important tasks as the exposure of, and struggle against, violence towards women. In the twenty first century this violence shows no sign of decreasing. In Professor Jacqueline Rose smallthis lecture, Jacqueline Rose will argue that because the discourse on violence has tended to be appropriated by radical feminist thinking – violence is not only, but also exclusively, what men do to women – the question of violence, as part of psychic reality, has become something that feminism repudiates. Continuing her on-going engagement with psychoanalysis and feminism, she  will explore two women thinkers who placed violence at the core of their life’s work: Hannah Arendt and Melanie Klein, both of whom track the complex relation between violence in the world and in the mind. How might their understanding of violence be theorised for modern feminism?

Presentation of reflection pieces on violence, trauma and peace: Narcissism and Trauma – Simone Drichel

Relationality functions as an important pivot point in the conceptualisation of colonial contact and its subsequent postcolonial transformation. Whether it is in Frantz Fanon’s early anticolonial study Black Skin, White Masks (1952) or Leela Gandhi’s more recent Affective Communities (2006), relationality emerges as a central point of concern—notably, to date, in its negative or perverted SimoneDrichelforms. Thus Fanon, for example, characterises colonial relationality as a “double narcissism”: a form of contact that drastically deforms the psyches of both coloniser and colonised. Gandhi, similarly, notes the “antirelational basis of imperialism,” an antirelationality which, according to her, feeds colonialism’s insatiable “craving for the hygiene of oppositionality.” A clear and urgent ethical mandate emerges from such noted perversions of relationality in (post)colonial contexts: the creation of non-pathological alternatives. What this means, most pressingly, is gaining an understanding of what might get in the way of such alternatives. Taking my lead from Daniel Shaw’s recent relational reframing of narcissism in Traumatic Narcissism (2014), where he argues that “the most important thing to know about narcissism [is] how deeply rooted narcissism is in relational trauma,” my thoughts in this contribution circle around a suspicion that more enabling forms of postcolonial relationality may only become available once the intricate entanglement of narcissism and disavowed relational trauma is better understood.


On What Constitutes ‘Violence’: Reflections on Researching Torture – Kiran Grewal

Within the human rights world it is taken as a given that torture is universally wrong and prohibited. Yet as we have seen, despite international legal definitions, the debate continues about what constitutes torture in practice. In this presentation I reflect on recent work I have done as part of a team attempting to conduct an ethnography of police and military personnel operating in torture permissive cultures. I will speak of the contradictions and ambiguities that emerge when we try to understand how the widely held belief that torture is wrong overlaps with everyday practices and cultures of violence.

The Breaking of Protective Shield: Trauma Theory and Event – centric Poetics of Violence – Magdalena Zolkos

The concept of trauma has become one of the key critical tools in theoretical humanities and in literature to think about the impact of violence on individual and collective subject formation, Magdalena 2 WRincluding questions of temporality, memorialization, witnessing and creation of archival imagery of what has been idiomatized as “catastrophic events.” What has become apparent, however, is that trauma theory has relied on a specific cultural and philosophical notion of violence, which Freud describes in Beyond the Pleasure Principle as the breaking through the body’s “protective shield”—violence, then, has an event-like structure, and it interrupts the realities of political and socio-economic life, rather than remains enmeshed within and constituted by them. This talk problematizes the extent to which the psychoanalytic theory of trauma has relied on (and reproduced) the event-centered poetics of violence, thereby potentially rendering invisible less “spectacular” enactments of violence. I use Hanya Yanagihara’s 2014 novel The People in the Trees and Freud’s idea of receptive membrane to help me think about how those two modalities of violence (one interruptive and event-centered, and the other one describing quotidian and unspectacular plights of suffering that are often ignored and normalized) can be thought of together and in non-binary ways.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Sufis and Salafis: Perspectives on Non/Violence from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa – Shail Mayaram

For many the global war on terror is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The faultlines, however, are not between Latin Christendom and Islam but instead many others that are intra-religious including within Islam. While there is a polarisation between the Shia/Sunni, deriving from the Sunnaification of Islam since the early twentieth century, I argue that the emergent civil war is between Sufis and Salafis. This began with the nineteenth century Wahhabi attacks on the tombs of the companions of the Prophet. It has intensified in the last two decades with the multiplication Shail Mayaramof groups that claim to be salafi or “early Muslims” who profess an Islamic creed that is pure and uncontaminated by accretions. In the last few years I have visited several Sufi shrines that fall roughly in the territories of the former Ottoman and Mughal Empires. All over this vast terrain Sufi shrines have been targeted – bombed or burnt – whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The implications of this attack are explicit. Not only is Sufi practice seen as heretic, but their conceptual vocabularies are seen as challenging Salafi ideologies of various shades. This paper addresses the following questions: (1.) What is the metaphysical – philosophical world of Sufis?; (2.) What is the relation between the ethical and the political?; (3.) What are the implications for violence and peace implicit in Salafi concepts and practice and in Sufi counter-discourses?; (4.) What are the implications for democracy and secularism?

How Peace Forgets? – Jeanne Morefield

s200_jeanne.morefieldThis presentation will examine the counterintuitive way narratives about peace and peace processes can occlude both histories of violence and trauma as well as the current suffering of marginalized peoples. Drawing upon the work of Edward Said, I examine Middle East peace initiatives worked up by foreign policy analysts in Europe and American and explore critically the layers of imperial forgetting braided into these narratives. I consider the implications of this silencing for contemporary politics and think more broadly about the forms of political expression that can emerge from a critical practice of speaking and writing back to the “peace” imagined by empire. I conclude by considering briefly how such a practice can contribute to forging the kinds of solidarity necessary for a more self aware, and less harmful, peace.



Roundtable on the ‘movement of peace’ in a world of escalating violence

Participants: Akeel Bilgrami (chair), Romand Coles, Simone Drichel, Naser Ghobadzadeh, Kiran Grewal, Shail Mayaram, Jeanne Morefield, Jacqueline Rose, Magdalena Zolkos


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