Understanding the use of violence in political struggle

The term violence and its use as a strategy and tactic in political struggles is gaining popularity, particularly in the recent discourse over the Fees Must fall campaigns.

Eusebius McKaiser questions whether the term has become too broad in its use.

Senior researcher at Rhodes University and author of ‘Writing the Decline’, Dr Richard Pithouse talks to McKaiser about understanding the use of violence in political struggle.

Pithouse takes an insightful look at Frantz Fanon writer whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory.

Many students in South Africa draw on his writings in the current context of struggle around de-colonising education.

He explains that while there isn’t a single definition of violence, broader meanings run the risk of masking forms of behavior that are dangerous.

Questions of definitions are often acutely contested.

Richard Pithouse, Senior researcher at Rhodes University and author

There is something to be lost by having a conception of violence that is too elastic. But there can be some value in looking for instance at how social structures are oppressive in ways that have real material consequences even on people’s bodies.

Richard Pithouse, Senior researcher at Rhodes University and author

Violence as physical force directed against a human body, that is uncontroversial. Everything else is essentially a kind of metaphor.

Richard Pithouse, Senior researcher at Rhodes University and author

Metaphor is kind of slippery because a new metaphor can be really powerful but then it can collapse into cliché and it can be deadening to our language and our understanding.

Richard Pithouse, Senior researcher at Rhodes University and author

Listen to Richard Pithouse's providing an insightful analysis of the work of revolutionary writer Frantz Fanon and the use of violence in struggle:


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