Overview: The Intersection of Ideologies of Violence

By Arriaza, Gilberto | Social Justice, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Overview: The Intersection of Ideologies of Violence


Arriaza, Gilberto, Social Justice


THIS ISSUE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE SEEKS TO EXPLAIN VIOLENCE AT THE LOCAL AND global levels, as well as its simultaneous manifestations in society's structural, material, cultural, and political spheres. Violence is a social issue that springs from a wide range of ideologies and is an occurrence inscribed in our daily individual and collective experience. It leaves an imprint on us as individuals and societies. From open armed conflict as a means of imposing a political doctrine, a rationale for liberation, or a religious faith, to the militarization of civilian society, to the pain of alienation in the context of work and other cultural milieus, the use of violence has become perhaps the most significant sign that characterizes contemporary human civilization.

Four central ideologies of violence are patriarchal domination, white supremacy, religious fundamentalism, and savage competition and individualism, nurtured by a rapacious capitalism with its extreme concentration of wealth and widespread poverty. Throughout the articles in this issue, these ideologies are discussed not as discrete and disconnected forces of everyday life, but as profoundly interconnected and complementary. Beyond addressing the enactment of violence through these ideologies, the articles propose transformative strategies on how to engage violence, thus widening the perspectives on the topic.

New discourses covered include the role of the state and social movements, identity politics as a transformative agent, the combined power of ethnicity, class, and gender politics as an organizing force, the promises and restrictions of human rights litigation, rescuing the vocational value embedded in the act of work, and the use of film as an instrument that goes beyond denunciation to offer critical pedagogies to counter the politics of fear prevalent in societies such as the United States.

Sangeeta Kamat and Biju Mathew's article, "Mapping Political Violence in a Globalized World: The Case of Hindu Nationalism," uncovers the local and global ramifications of a movement that combines caste, faith, and culture to impose its nationalistic agenda. They do this by analyzing the mass murder of Muslims committed in Gujarat in 2002 by alleged Hindu mobs. According to Kamat and Mathew, the attempted ethnic cleansing against those considered enemies of the Hindu "race" is part of a longstanding ideological effort in India that has recently branched out to Indian communities abroad, in particular those in the United States and England.

Mariana Mora's account of 10 years of indigenous rebellion in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, invites the reader to rethink the value of grassroots political movements and their relationship to the national state through her article on the Zapatista struggle. The author narrates the evolving role of social movements based on a comprehensive political program that combines economic, political, cultural, gender, and linguistic rights aimed at the transformation of power relations and the removal of the traditional protagonist role of the state. Mora posits that a politics of listening and dignity stands at the center of the indigenous struggle in Mexico.

In "The Racial Economies of Criminalization, immigration, and Policing in Italy," Asale Angel-Ajani documents how the enactment of restrictive laws on crime and their draconian application go hand in hand with the criminalization of immigrants, more specifically African women, primarily from Nigeria. Similar to the experience in the United States, in Italy--as in most of Europe--discourses on immigration conflate with a harsh anticrime rhetoric that depicts immigrants as "clandestine" enclaves of people prone to criminal behavior.

In "Defending the Pueblo: Indigenous Identity and Struggles for Social Justice in Guatemala, 1970 to 1980," Betsy Konefal provides a historical account of the challenges encountered by Guatemala's oppressed majority--the native Mayans--in building a movement that vindicates the dignity denied to them for five centuries.

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