Brock University

Theories of Violence and Nonviolence I

Theories of violence and nonviolence are inextricably bound up with conceptions of social and political action, justice and the law. These theories can also provide a lens with which to examine institutional structures, language, and our relationship with others, with ourselves and with the environment. What bearings do violence and nonviolence have on the way we are and, therefore, on the world we occupy? This session invites papers concerned with broadening our conceptualization of violence and nonviolence beyond the traditional theoretical boundaries within sociology and social theory. The aim of this session is to create a conversation between papers that help us better attune ourselves to practices of violence or nonviolence in our environing world.

This is a joint-session with the Society for Socialist Studies and as such presenters must be a member of at least one of these associations.

Session Organizer: Laurel Collins, University of Victoria, ; Carol Linnitt, University of Victoria,


The (Non-Violent) "Good Citizen"

Rebeccah Nelems, University of Victoria (UVic),

In contemporary Western secular education systems, we explicitly promote a range of values about how to be “good citizens” with the goal of raising “non-violent” and “engaged” citizens. However, the paradigmatic underpinnings of these values are often assumed, leaving the terms open to vague and diverse interpretations. When enacted, this curricula can be influenced by a range of other goals, such as social cohesion, hearkening back to the roots of moral education. This warrants special concern as the society into which we are rearing our children is shaped by a dominant view of “the good life”, which is premised on a tremendously violent past, present and future, and is reproduced through social inequities, the assimilation of differences, and environmental destruction. Drawing on political sociology, sociology of knowledge and social change theorists, this paper explores the interface between the “good citizen” and the “good life” and the non-violent and violent moral paradigms underlying these concepts. To what extent do our efforts to morally educate young people promote their participation in and/or critique of societal institutions, and in what ways? How, when and in what contexts are we letting children in on the violence of current social, political and economic institutions and systems?


Thinking the An-archic Animal: Metaphysics, Violence and the “Practical a Priori”

Carol Linnitt, University of Victoria,

The question of animal violence is often directed at those apparent scenes of visible animal brutality and abjection: the modern slaughterhouse, the poaching of endangered species, the laboratory animal, the animal labourer.  Indeed these exemplars of violence have become the hallmark of animal-rights activists, used to express a form of human-animal transgression that society must not tolerate.  Yet, these examples of violence demonstrate a modern preoccupation with physical and visible forms of violence, a preoccupation that often leaves the metaphysical presumptions that sanction and legitimate such violence unaddressed.

In this paper I will argue the particular brand of metaphysical violence inhering in our contemporary world has fundamentally to do with an inability to envision or give place to a reality of the animal that exists beyond the human world of use and purpose.  The violence of metaphysics is enacted through the interplay of certain fundamental principles that dominate and order in advance animal becoming.  In this paper I work to demonstrate how these principles perpetuate a certain de facto violence against the animal. I offer up a vision of the an-archic animal as a non-violent theoretical framework in which to explore post-metaphysical human-animal relations.



Theorizing Violence and Nonviolence in the context of Women's Adult Education

Laurel Collins, University of Victoria,

Theories of violence and nonviolence can provide a lens with which to examine educational institutions, structures, and practices, but nonviolent education is a largely under-theorized field of study. This paper looks at violence and nonviolence in relation to feminist adult education, and explores the intersections between violence against women, peace education, nonviolent communication education, and the creation of nonviolent educational spaces. My inquiry begins by conceptualizing nonviolence in relation to temporality, rootedness and singularity, and draws on theorists such as Tolstoy, Benjamin, Derrida, Arendt, Gandhi, Butler and Schürmann in order to situate this notion nonviolence within social theory. I explore the prevalence of violence in Canada, both inside and outside of education, in terms of its dimensions as collective, interpersonal, social, political, economic, physical, symbolic, and sexualized violence, and discuss the impacts on learning. Using Nancy Fraser’s conception of the redistribution of recognition, along with the feminist adult education theories of Horsman, Hyland-Russell and Groen, I introduce a theory of nonviolent education. This nonviolent education involves the recognition of the impact of trauma on learning, but also includes a radical fluidity that displaces fixed goals, enforcement and the dichotomous imposition of maximized concepts at the root of systemic violence.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie