Lesson #393: Structural Violence

This is (sort of) a cheat. This is a very pared down version of something I have to turn in for class tomorrow. The original version was five pages, which for the purposes of this assignment was way, way too long, but will serve as the backbone for an upcoming paper. This one’s two, which is much more reasonable for what it is — a glossary page for my classmates. On the plus side, I got to play in my vast library of Northern Ireland titles for a bit.

Funnily, I think this is the first time Northern Ireland has ever appeared on this blog. I say funny because when I started this blog, I was doing my PhD on Northern Irish politics, specifically on the Falls Road Curfew as the instigation for the second phase (mass excitement) of revolution. I have to say, it’s been very nice to be back in a program where I can talk about NI and people (well, okay, person…my program director is well versed on the subject, though he’s more into the policy where I’m more into the grit) know, generally, what I’m talking about. I love my friends, they’re great, but they couldn’t possibly care less about Northern Irish politics and/or revolutionary theory. I’m really looking forward to the day we cover NI in my ethnic and cultural conflicts class because the first paragraph of the text talks about it as a religious conflict, which it isn’t. I’m going to have a field day!

Anyway, this is cited differently from my usual posts because it’s all academic-like.

 

Structural Violence

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” -Dr. Paul Farmer

 

Structural violence is a term introduced by Johan Galtung in the 1969 article, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research”.[1]  Generally bereft of physical violence, structural violence is a form of institutionalized, psychological, avoidable, and sometimes unintentional repression that affects a portion of a population, and there is often no one person to blame for it. “There may not be any person who directly harms another person in the structure. The violence is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances” (Galtung 1969).

As a rule, structural violence is instituted to keep power among those who already have it by systematically depriving those underneath of certain needs, thereby creating a system of haves and have-nots and making it difficult, if not impossible, for those suffering under some form of structural violence to raise themselves into a better socioeconomic position. In the current global landscape, this is most often seen in the form of education, medical care, and food, and in many places, structural violence and physical violence are found together.

Many scholars, including Dr. Paul Farmer, Ronald Hill and Justin Rapp, and Yunus Kaya, believe that structural violence is a natural byproduct of globalization, that the influence of the West in developing countries is keeping the rich powerful and the poor systematically repressed. With consideration for many places in post-colonial Africa where structural violence was the modus operandi for hundreds of years, and where dictatorships are still a considerable factor, there is no shortage of examples of this form of repression.

Structural violence may be seen in various forms across all cultures including, on the larger scale:

  • Racism
  • Classism
  • Sexism
  • Nationalism
  • Ethnocentrism

Structural violence on the smaller scale can take the form of:

  • Lack of access to education
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Lack of access to food and/or shelter
  • Biased hiring/firing practices
  • Gerrymandering of voting districts
  • Parades
  • Movement restrictions such as travel bans and curfews

In an applied case, the resurgence of violent conflict in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s is directly tied to structural violence. When the period known as The Troubles began, the movement was purely an ideological push for civil rights; the IRA had been disorganized since the failed 1956 border campaigns. When the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) formed in February of 1967, its aim was to tackle the gerrymandering of Catholic voting districts, repeal the Special Powers Act of 1922 — which restricted the use of the Irish tricolour, allowed for internment without trial, and issued a ban on nationalist and republican meetings and parades while allowing unionist and loyalist meetings and parades, including the incendiary July 12th parades, which marched (and still march) through Catholic enclaves of Belfast including the Ardoyne in North Belfast and the Short Strand in East Belfast — the introduction of a compulsory points system to ensure fair allocation of public housing, and the disbanding of the Ulster Special Constabulary (B Specials), an exclusively Protestant quasi-military force.[2]

Later, in 1970, the Catholic community suffered both the mass expulsion of 500 workers from the Harland and Wolff shipyards following a shootout in the Short Strand in late June and an early July curfew in the Lower Falls Road area of West Belfast.  Between 3-5 July, the British Army contained 20,000 people in their homes for 36 hours using barbed wire barricades to block off the area, did a full arms search of each house, arrested 300 men, shot three unarmed civilians dead and ran one over with a tank, and allowed the son of former Prime Minister Brookeborough to tour the area while leaving Westminster MP for the Falls, Gerry Fitt, outside the barricades.[3] Adding insult to injury, it was later discovered that the entire operation had been illegal.

The Falls Road Curfew is the specific event that pushed the Provisional IRA, which had split from the Original IRA over ideological differences the previous December, into its active participation in the conflict. No longer willing to tolerate systematic and — in some cases, physical — violence under the Stormont government and the British military forces, nationalists began to vocalize their support for the civil rights movement and several hundred new republicans joined up with the Provisionals. Prior to the curfew, the Provos counted fewer than 100 men; by the beginning of December, they numbered 800.[4]

Further reading

Paul Farmer  – An Anthropology of Structural Violence. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/382250

Tord Hoivik – The Demography of Structural Violence. http://www.jstor.org/stable/423311

 

[1]Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), p. 167-191. http://www.jstor.org/stable/422690

[2] Bew, P., & Gillespie, G. (1999). Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles 1968-1999 (p.1) Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.

[3] Warner, G. (2006). The Falls Road Curfew Revisited. Irish Studies Review, 14(3), 325-342., Coogan, T. (1997). The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace (p. 109). Boulder, Colo.: Roberts Rinehart., McKittrick, D., & McVea, D. (2002). Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland (p. 62). Chicago: New Amsterdam Books.

[4] Bardon, J. (1994). A History of Ulster (p. 678). Belfast: The Blackstaff Press.

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