My Interview with the former Prime Minister of Tibet in Exile Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche. ~ Carrie Stiles

“We know that social structures kill and maim as surely as the bullet and the knife” ~ Hoivik

Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung first proposed the theory of Structural Violence (Barash & Webel, 2009).

Galtung defines violence as the avoidable disparity between the potential ability to fulfill basic needs and their actual fulfillment. Poverty and unjust socio-political and economic institutions, systems and structures harm, or kill people. Structural Violence is indirect, avoidable violence built into structures where there is unequal power and consequently unequal life chances. Structural Violence is an oppressive framework that operates through powerful associations, organizations and institutions that guarantees privilege amongst its leaders, prioritization of their political agenda, and an enforcement of their methods and ideologies.

 

“The identification of redressable injustice is not only what animates us to think about justice and injustice, it’s also central … to the theory of justice (p. VII) … The impossibility of remaining silent on a subject is an observation that can be made about many cases of injustice that move us to rage in a way that is hard for our language to capture. And yet any analysis of injustice would also demand clear articulation and reasoned scrutiny (p. 1)” ~ Amartya Sen

“As the twentieth century draws to a close, the world’s poor are the chief victims of Structural Violence – a violence which has thus far defied the analysis of many seeking to understand the nature and distribution of extreme suffering. Why might this be so? One answer is that the poor are not only more likely to suffer, they are also more likely to have their suffering silenced.” ~ Dr. Paul Farmer

Creating a system of accountability requires tracing experiences of suffering back to specific sources in a global context.

The basis of many social movements hinges on tracing Structural Violence back to a source and holding those sources accountable through creative, innovative methods. It is not that Structural Violence exists when things are not clear, but rather where there is complexity of social forces. The complexity of social forces must be rendered comprehensible for constructive Conflict Resolution to mitigate Structural Violence. It is the role of Conflict Resolution Practitioners and Scholars to better understand the subject-action-object relations to create the space necessary for constructive dialogue.

Elaborating a theory of Structural Violence demands that we design a system of accountability by mounting evidence rather than accepting the illusive character of suffering. The example of the Life Patent and Intellectual Property Rights Regimes over Plant Genetic Resources illuminates an example of the complex forces that converge to generate Structural Violence.

~ Carrie Stiles

 

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