The Role of Language in Justifying and Eliminating Cultural Violence

in Peace, Culture, and Violence
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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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