Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Structural Violence Section Introduction - Peace, conflict, and violence: Peace psychology in the 21st century.

"Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century"
edited by D. Christie, R. Wagner, and D. Winter (2001)
…In the second section of the book, we distinguish direct violence from structural violence: direct violence refers to events that harm or kill individuals or groups as contrasted with structural violence which is manifest in social inequalities. In structural violence, hierarchical relations within and between societies privilege those who are on top while oppressing, exploiting and dominating those who occupy the bottom. Like direct violence, structural violence also kills people but does so slowly, by depriving people of basic necessities. There are important psychological reasons why people tolerate and rationalize structural violence and we identify some of these reasons in this volume. We examine structural violence within societies but also include in our analysis the problem of militarization, which contributes to structural violence globally, most often depriving those with the fewest resources, usually women, children and indigenous people. The organization of the book reflects our bias that violence is best understood from a systems perspective with overt forms of violence manifest in micro and macro contexts, and conditioned by structural and cultural configurations…

Draft 6/1/99 - NOTE: This version may not precisely match the published version.
For any scholarly activity, obtain the published version.
By Deborah DuNann Winter and Dana C. Leighton
Copyright 1999 Deborah DuNann Winter and Dana C. Leighton
Direct violence is horrific, but its brutality usually gets our attention: we notice it, and often respond to it. Structural violence, however, is almost always invisible, embedded in ubiquitous social structures, normalized by stable institutions and regular experience. Structural violence occurs whenever people are disadvantaged by political, legal, economic or cultural traditions. Because they are longstanding, structural inequities usually seem ordinary, the way things are and always have been. The chapters in this section teach us about some important but invisible forms of structural violence, and alert us to the powerful cultural mechanisms that create and maintain them over generations.

Structured inequities produce suffering and death as often as direct violence does, though the damage is slower, more subtle, more common, and more difficult to repair. Globally, poverty is correlated with infant mortality, infectious disease, and shortened lifespans. Whenever people are denied access to societys resources, physical and psychological violence exists.

Johan Galtung originally framed the term structural violence to refer to any constraint on human potential due to economic and political structures (1969). Unequal access toresources, to political power, to education, to health care, or to legal standing, are forms of structural violence. When inner city children have inadequate schools while others do not, when gays and lesbians are fired for their sexual orientation, when laborers toil in inhumane conditions, when people of color endure environmental toxins in their neighborhoods, structural violence exists. Unfortunately, even those who are victims of structural violence often do not see the systematic ways in which their plight is choreographed by unequal and unfair distribution of societys resources.
Read more:

Peace Psychology Book
Peace Psychology 2009 - PowerPoint Presentation

Dan Christie
Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University

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