Brian Holmes on Sat, 17 Nov 2001 10:28:29 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: structural violence

Eric Miller writes:

"I think that most individuals have a very concrete concept of what
"violence"'s the act of physically inflicting pain, and connotes
malicious intent...
But to me, this definition [of structural violence] is deliberately cast
wider in order to assign responsibility to institutions, rather than
acknowledging the sad truth that bad things happen in the world."

What I found compelling in the article was less the term of structural
violence than the reality that Paul Farmer describes, particularly this:

"Movements of poulations on a vast scale, and therefore of diseases, are
not new. But what is new, from a doctor's viewpoint, is that we now have
tools that did not exist just fifty years ago; and those tools are
distributed as unjustly as the diseases of which I am going to speak."

Farmer speaks of two realities: that of widespread infectious diseases, and
that of the failure to distribute curative remedies on as wide a scale. The
"culpability" lies above all in the second point, he appears to indicate
here. Farmer is both a practitioner and a critic. I interested in someone
who both does something concretely (on a small scale), so as to directly
help, and analyzes injustice and inequality (on a large scale), so as to
encourage institutional transformations. That seems a little more profound
and engaged than a position which acknowledges that bad things happen in
the world. In fact, it makes you wonder why a person with such coherent and
generous practices would use a contradictory term like "structural

The conceptual contradiction between the impersonality of structure and the
personal connotations of violence seems expressly designed to encourage
people to ask what they can do about situations which go beyond their own
scale and immediate responsibility. 

all best, Brian Holmes

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