Dissecting Violence: Structures, Imaginaries, Resistance

ASCA International Workshop and Conference, 4-6 April 2018. Organizers: Peyman Amiri, Natasha Basu, Bernardo Caycedo.

Violence is all around us. Our everyday practices, unwillingly and unknowingly, often support cultural, social, economic, and legal structures that cause and perpetuate physical and psychological harm. These structures, whether visible or hidden, tend to privilege certain groups of people, and dehumanise other groups. The way we conceive violence depends highly on the groups we belong to or are categorised in, and on our individual and collective experiences. Our reactions to violence, whether to comply with or resist it, are influenced by the way we perceive blatant and subtle forms of violence.

In Dissecting Violence: Structures, Imaginaries, Resistance, we will take on violence and its structures, its imaginaries and representations, as well as the multiple ways it can be resisted. Due to the complexity of these topics, the conference encourages researchers, artists, and activists from a wide range of disciplines to participate in the debate.

Structures of Violence

“Whatever is called ‘violence’ becomes regarded as violent from a particular perspective embedded in a defining framework. We might first presume that violence is physical, but if we do that, we fail to account for those kinds of violence that are linguistic, emotional, institutional, and economic, that undermine and expose life to harm or death, but do not take the literal form of a blow.” (Judith Butler 2016)

Wars, famines, rioting, terrorist attacks, police brutality, and colonial continuities on a global scale are caused and perpetuated by institutions that are considered legitimate, if not democratic. There are also types of violence that may not be evident to us due to the way they are normalised through cultural practices, but are nonetheless sustained by structures that are shaped by those same institutions. In this stream, we welcome presentations that address structures of violence, such as heteronormative marriage, geo-political borders, workplace relations, and environmental degradation.

We are interested in understanding how these types and intersections of structural violence operate, and their epistemic premises. What are the features of these structures that make them violent? How do certain societal features support these structures of violence? How do structures of violence seep into spheres that are traditionally understood as not political (family, friendship, marriage and partnership)? How do these structures differ, overlap and intersect in particular geopolitical and cultural contexts? For example, what is the difference between how state and financial violence operates in Europe and Africa? How do the structures of violence differ and intersect as they operate at the border between Palestine/Israel, Mexico and the US, and in the Mediterranean Sea?

Imaginaries of Violence

“The causes and effects of extreme violence are not produced on one and the same stage, but on different “scenes” or “stages,” which can be pictured as “real” and “virtual” or “imaginary” –but the imaginary and virtual are probably no less material, no less determining than real.” (Etienne Balibar, 2001)

Even though certain forms of structural violence may be overlooked, individual and collective actions and productions can make them visible. We welcome presentations on how violence can be represented, imagined and mediatised by material, visual and artistic productions. Some representations of violence, with strong political significance, are based on “imaginaries of violence”, understood as collective ways of conceiving violence detached from factual evidence. These imaginaries constitute the subjective dimension of collective experiences of violence, which can lead to clashes over who is entitled to determine what violence is, and who the victims and perpetrators are. At the same time, these imaginaries emphasise the role of affects and emotions in defining violence.

This stream is open to discussions that address questions such as: how do traditional media, new media and art portray, publicise, exploit, produce or disregard violence? To what extent are these various ways of relating to violence based on “imaginaries of violence”? How can cultural productions lead to the normalisation or naturalisation of violent social practices? What specific kinds of violence are committed by or through the media? What digital behaviours could or should be considered contemporary forms of violence? What do practices such as cyberbullying, trolling, revenge porn, doxing and leaking make us understand about violence in the digital realm?

Resisting Violence

“[T]o destroy one thing for the sake of constructing another thing. That is resistance.” (Amilcar Cabral, 1969)

The key issue in this stream is the connection between violence and resistance: how can structures of violence condition resistance and how could resistance perpetuate violence? Is the destruction of structures of violence unavoidably violent or a matter of tactical choice? The various theoretical and practical ways of reacting to violence and resisting its structures can be analysed from a conceptual or a normative perspective.  

We are interested in presentations that analyse how tactics of resistance such as armed struggle, occupations, civil disobedience, everyday forms of resistance, self-immolations, hunger strikes, satyagraha, hacktivism, symbolic resistance, and other forms that have been traditionally overlooked, contest structures of violence. Additionally, how do certain theories and methods like postcolonial and decolonial theories, feminism, intersectionality, queer theory, etc. in themselves resist violence?

Equally welcome are presentations that address normative questions such as: who has the moral authority and legitimacy to determine which forms of resistance may be called violent or nonviolent? How can this labelling be contested? How could the violent/non-violent characterisation function as a constraint on collective movements of emancipation that aim at transforming structures of violence? To what extent do means shape ends and/or ends justify means when it comes to resisting violence?

Submission Guidelines

We welcome abstracts of up to 300 words and short bios of up to 100 words. Please send the abstract and bio as attachments to asca-fgw@uva.nl by 15 October 2017. Upon acceptance, you will be asked to submit your full presentation by 31 January 2018. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.


Published by  ASCA

5 July 2017