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Edited by Fuat Gursozlu

Peace, Culture, and Violence examines deeper sources of violence by providing a critical reflection on the forms of violence that permeate everyday life and our inability to recognize these forms of violence. Exploring the elements of culture that legitimize and normalize violence, the essays collected in this volume invite us to recognize and critically approach the violent aspects of reality we live in and encourage us to envision peaceful alternatives. Including chapters written by important scholars in the fields of Peace Studies and Social and Political Philosophy, the volume represents an endeavour to seek peace in a world deeply marred by violence. Topics include: thug culture, language, hegemony, police violence, war on drugs, war, terrorism, gender, anti-Semitism, and other topics.

Contributors are: Amin Asfari, Edward Demenchonok, Andrew Fiala, William Gay, Fuat Gursozlu, Joshua M. Hall , Ron Hirschbein, Todd Jones, Sanjay Lal, Alessandro Rovati, Laleye Solomon Akinyemi, David Speetzen, and Lloyd Steffen.

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Andrew Fiala

Abstract:

This paper critiques violence in popular culture including the imagery that valorizes thuggish behavior. It provides a critical analysis of the idea of the thug, including racial and gender perspectives. It examines multiple sources for images of violence: in rap music, heavy metal music, video games, and film. It argues that violent culture provides models for violence that normalize violence, while stopping short of claiming a direct causal relation. It applies this framework to recent cases of mass shootings and other violent words and deeds.

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Laleye Solomon Akinyemi

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The cultural beliefs, norms and practices of any society are more importantly directed at fostering peaceful social co-existence. Some cultural practices in Africa are aberration to reason because they inflict gender violence, promote social inequality and undermine effective social relations. Contemporary instruments meant to mitigate these are incapacitated by the cultural beliefs, therefore holding social justice in captivity. This paper, therefore, examines this ubiquitous plague that beleaguered Africa and the attempts at eradicating the malaise. It argues for the reappraisal of some of the cultural practices so as to be in tandem with reality that promotes peaceful social co-existence.

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Fuat Gursozlu

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The paper explores Johan Galtung’s theory of cultural violence from the perspective of a hegemony centered account of the social. It argues that once we take hegemony as a central organizing idea of the social, it becomes possible to recognize the limits of Galtung’s account of cultural violence and why his response to it remains weak. It defends a politics of contestation and a politics of disruption as possible ways to counter the risks introduced by cultural violence.

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Todd Jones

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Many thinkers concerned about the problems of violence believe we should focus on trying to understanding its “root causes.” A “culture of violence” is often discussed as among these central root causes. In this chapter, I discuss why this focus is problematic. The notion of “culture” causing violence tends to lump dissimilar causes together. At the same time, it focuses on types of causes which are too similar, and it inhibits our thinking about possible solutions.

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David Speetzen

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This article applies the traditional just war criteria of just cause, necessity, and proportionality to the use of force by police officers. After describing the origins and structure of the just war perspective, it details how those core criteria can be used to construct a normative account of police force, which, in turn, can be used to diagnose a variety of misconceptions that have helped shape, and continue to shape public discourse about police violence in the United States. On the account presented here, the use of force by police officers is justified if and only if the level of force used is necessary to secure compliance with a legal command (or in defense of self or others), and will not result in more harm than good all things considered. What becomes apparent is that many common beliefs and attitudes about police force are mistaken—e.g., that a suspect’s criminality, disrespectful behavior, or even use of lethal force automatically renders him liable to police force, or that police force is proportionate so long the amount of force used does not grossly exceed that used by the suspect. It concludes that, relative to the appropriate ethical standards, much if not most police force used at present is unjustified.

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Edward Demenchonok

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The paper examines Michel Foucault’s theory of the practices of the self and its contribution to the emergence of a new philosophical anthropology. It is focused on Foucault’s analysis of the history of practices of the self in Christianity, mainly of the practices of confession and of pastoral power, paying special attention to his critique of the Western “morality of asceticism” and “self-renunciation” as a form of control of individuals and domination. Foucault saw an alternative in Hellenistic model of practices of the self, which inspired him to sketch an ethics of taking care of oneself as a practice of freedom. Taking care of the self always aims for the well-being of others, which implies that power relations should be managed in a nonauthoritarian manner. The postulate of this morality was that free persons properly care for themselves are able to relate properly to others. Foucault’s theory is considered an important step toward a new philosophical anthropology. Its further development is traced in “synergic anthropology” based on the spiritual tradition and practices of Eastern Orthodox Christian hesychasm. In the world spiritual traditions, despite their differences, spiritual practices share some universal ontological and anthropological elements. The universal elements of spiritual practices can facilitate communication among people from different religious backgrounds and dialogue between their respective traditions. The practices of the self and spiritual practices, philosophically conceptualized in a new anthropology, promote the ideas of human freedom, justice, and peace.

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William C. Gay

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The thesis of this essay is that language plays a central role in justifying cultural violence and in eliminating or at least reducing cultural violence. After defending the position that language can do violence and that such violence is inappropriate, this essay presents and supports Johan Galtung’s concepts of direct, structural, and cultural violence and builds on his inclusion of language as one of the areas of cultural violence. By contrast, problems are shown with the concepts of violence found in Slavoj Žižek and Paul Ricoeur. Then, the author’s concepts of linguistic violence and linguistic nonviolence are related to the work of Patricia Friedrich on peace linguistics and nonkilling linguistics and the work of Irene Comins Mingol and Sonia París Albert on nonkilling philosophy. Support is provided for their criticisms of linguistic imperialism and “linguicism” (a term modeled after racism and sexism) and for their efforts, like ones by bell hooks, to show how the oppressed, using the language of the oppressor (including English—despite its globally hegemonic status), can develop strategies of resistance. The essay concludes by suggesting that efforts to eliminate linguistic violence and to advance linguistic nonviolence are central to reducing cultural violence and to advancing social justice.

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Sanjay Lal

Abstract:

Though the need for clarifying who the West is at war with has not gone unnoticed in the post 9/11 world, a glaring lack of clarity regarding what, exactly, is being fought against is noticeable even among those leaders (e.g. President Obama) who have taken great pains to avoid creating the impression that Westerners are fighting Islam in their current war efforts. I maintain that such an absence of clarity allows cultural violence to continue unimpeded insofar as it prevents us from noticing important insights that challenge our tendency to readily accept violence and that are therefore essential for realizing a more peaceful world. I will show that a deeper consideration of key questions related to the violence committed on behalf of citizens in the West lead to conclusions that (at the very least) should make us all less willing to regard this violence as morally acceptable—even on the grounds that it is committed to protect innocent life.