“Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” by Johan Galtung
Johan Galtung articulates an expansive definition of violence that is not necessarily tied to clearly identifiable, individual actors inflicting harm, which he terms structural violence. Galtung initially defines violence as present when humans are “influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (1969, 168). He lists six dimensions to characterize violence: physical/psychological, negative/positive, object/no object harmed, acting subject/no acting subject, intended/unintended, and manifest/latent, classifying structural violence within the fourth category as a violence that has no person that acts. Instead, this form of violence is built into structures and manifests itself in unequal power and consequently unequal opportunities. While it can also result in direct bodily and mental harm, its principal identifying feature is social injustice (Galtung, 1969, 170-171). He goes on to discuss the relationship between personal and structural violence and relates them to his distinction between negative peace (absence of personal violence) and positive peace (absence of structural violence), concluding that both forms of violence are extremely harmful and eradicating one should not be done at the expense of the other.
Galtung’s call for a more expansive conception of violence that can account for systemic injustice and oppression, as opposed to individual actions, was an innovative contribution at the time. However, his arguments rely on binaries and ultimately downplay the multidirectional and mutually reinforcing nature of different forms of violence. Similarly, he seems to naturalize structural violence over what he calls structural peace based on currently existing violences and hierarchies that are actually not natural at all, but rather legacies of colonialism and white supremacy (see Das, Fanon, Mbembe and Smith). Galtung’s mathematics training leads him to spend much of his time pondering ratios, constants, logical relationships and quantifying the gains and losses incurred by his two forms of violence--as if violence can fit into a matrix. Finally, Galtung minimizes the extent to which non-decision makers (top dogs, in his parlance) participate in violent structures and can therefore be said to have some responsibility. This topic merits much more discussion, as does the issue of intentionality, especially when consequences are violent.
Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer
In Pathologies of Power, Paul Farmer seeks to reveal the ways in which the most basic right–the right to survive–is infringed in the era of globalization and scientific progress, affirming that this should be considered the most pressing problem of our time (Farmer, 2005, 6). The author links the problems he discusses – health and human rights among the poor – with the macro structural processes derived from the establishment of neoliberalism doctrines. Thus, he asserts that “human rights abuses are committed in the name of defending and promoting some variant of market ideology” (Farmer, 2005, 6).
Farmer’s analysis is grounded in his professional experience as a physician and in his ethnographic work as medical anthropologist with various communities in Latin America and Russia. The book uses specific case studies to examine the struggle for social and economic rights as they relate to health– offering, what he terms, a critical assessment on conventional notions of human rights. For Farmer, the problem of human rights has been largely the domain of juridical experts. He advocates for a multidisciplinary approach to assess how the lack of economic and political power is intrinsically related to human rights abuses. Human rights violations, he argues, are not accidents, nor they are random in their distribution or effects (Farmer, 2005, 7). Rather, they are “symptoms of deeper pathologies of power” intrinsically linked to structural social conditions which determine the distribution of abuse and suffering (Farmer, 2005, 7). Moreover, he links public health problems with human rights abuses, arguing that “the social determinants of health outcomes are also the social the social determinants of the distribution of assaults on human dignity” (Farmer, 2005, 19).
He uses Galtung’s notion of structural violence as a category that encompasses a broad range of offenses against human dignity, including poverty, social inequalities of race, or gender, and unequal distribution of public services, including differential access to health. In other words, a “violence that does not involve bullets, knives, or implements of torture” (Farmer, 2005, 8). He defines structural violence as suffering that is “structured by historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces that conspire to constrain agency” (Farmer, 2005, 40). Within this theoretical framework, he counts people who experience poverty as “experts” in structural violence. Thus, he proposes the central claim that human rights abuses are best understood from the point of view of the poor.
Farmer proposes a program of research and action to work towards the equal distribution of scientific advances–particularly in medicine and public health services–and links it to struggles for social and economic rights (Farmer, 2005, 18). Notably, the authors goes beyond mortality (and other traditional markers) as an indicator of success and/or failure in medicine and public health, emphasizing poverty, inequality, and other forms of structural violence and their impacts on health. He argues that social justice must be central in medicine and public health, and that civil rights cannot really be defended if social and economic rights are not (Farmer, 2005, 9). He references Catholic liberation theology’s “preferential option for the poor” as a guiding principle throughout, making the argument that poverty is the most significant defining characteristic in terms of who is most likely to suffer. His line of argumentation centers on economic factors (class and poverty) and downplays race, neglects to discuss gender beyond conflating it with “women,” and makes no mention at all of intersectionality (Crenshaw 1991) despite dancing near similar concepts.
In Chapter 1, he shares the stories of two Haitians to reveal how structural forces affect and determine the violence experienced by the population in rural Haiti, which becomes embodied as suffering and manifested in sickness. For Famer, political and economic forces create the conditions for large scale epidemics such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and other infectious and parasitic diseases (Farmer, 2005, 40). In Haiti, the continuation of a despotic dictatorship and corruption, created (and left a legacy of) conditions of extreme poverty, lack of institutional infrastructure, and, in some cases, total absence of public health services. He discusses the case of a young woman named Acéphie, who, like other women in Haiti, are forced into unfavorable unions that increase their risk of contracting AIDS (Farmer, 2005, 39). He also discusses the case of Chouchou, who like other young men are deprived of the rights to free speech and political participation, silenced through torture and executions (Farmer, 2005, 40). With these two cases, Farmer highlights the fact that in Haiti, AIDS and political violence are two leading causes of death among young adults and are in fact caused by the same forces (Farmer, 2005, 40).
In Chapter 2, Paul Farmer contrasts the U.S.’ detention of HIV-positive Haitian refugees and Cuba’s AIDS treatment program to highlight structural violence in Haiti and its connection to U.S. immigration and foreign policy. Farmer discusses the harrowing experiences of HIV-positive Haitian refugees who were detained by the U.S. government on Guantanamo Bay and analyzes how U.S. immigration and foreign policy led to the serious human rights violations they experienced. For Haitians, like Yolande Jean, the decision to leave was a result of the repression and violence they experienced at the hands of the U.S.-backed Haitian military. Unfortunately, as a Haitian seeking refugee status in the U.S., she was subjected to terrible human rights violations—particularly because she was HIV positive (Farmer, 2005, 61). Farmer also connects U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba and Haiti—and the embargos levied against them—to the poverty experienced in these countries. Farmer is rightly outraged at the violence that Yolande and other refugees experienced while detained at Guantanamo Bay—pointing to the ways in which the media, popular opinion, and myths about Haitians helped to support this abuse (Farmer, 2005, 66-68). However, he makes no mention of race or racism as the driving forces behind this violence. Farmer criticizes the lawyers and human rights workers who supported the Haitian refugees who were held at Guantanamo for not going far enough in their condemnation of the conditions that they experienced, but he also falls short as an ally in his analysis by failing to mention race or racism.
In Chapter 3, Farmer briefly describes autonomous Zapatista communities’ struggle for healthcare, land, food sovereignty and Indigenous recognition. His discussion of the economic aspects of the structural violence of neoliberalism that decimated local Mexican communities and created many of the conditions that sparked the Zapatista uprising the same year that NAFTA was approved is a relevant addition. However, he again tries to frame the whole struggle as one of “the poor” rather than Indigenous peoples, which misses the real essence of their struggle and is problematic given his admittedly-limited experience in the region (Farmer, 2005, 104). While he ends the chapter on a hopeful note of “resistance,” his post-script addresses the 1997 paramilitary massacre of 45 residents of Acteal. The Mexican government had a nearly identical reaction to this massacre as it has had to the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa 17 years later: denying all involvement, instigating a much-criticized investigation, and making few arrests (Farmer, 2005, 112).
In Chapter 4, Farmer describes the tuberculosis epidemic that affected Russian prisons in the 1990s and early 2000s. He focuses on the care for patients with “multidrug-resistant tuberculosis” (MDRTB) and the debates, both in Russia and internationally, about how best to address this epidemic. According to Farmer’s experience, the best way to deal with this epidemic is by treating prisoners with second-line drugs, which are very costly (Farmer, 2005, 122). However, many people believe that this treatment would not be “cost effective.” Farmer takes them to task for “calling for less than the highest quality of care for the incarcerated” and points out that drugs could be more affordable and the health care budget larger (Farmer, 2005, 128). Farmer’s analysis points to the structural causes of this epidemic, including shrinking public health budgets in Russia, the unexplainable high price of TB medicine, and the socioeconomic conditions that have held to so many young men being jailed. As a physician Farmer takes a humanitarian approach to social justice work, which falls short in its analysis of how rights-based frameworks and international human rights institutions can serve to co-opt and compromise social movements even where they also provide limited forms of social inclusion as part of an entrepreneurial political and economic project (Hale, 2011).
1. Paul Farmer and Johan Galtung both write about structural violence and its relationship to physical violence—Farmer frames it as human rights abuses, while Galtung talks about personal physical violence. What other forms of violence are present in the case studies that Farmer writes about? How are these forms of violence related/connected to structural violence? Does Galtung’s framework of the six dimensions of violence capture the different kinds of violence we have talked about so far?
2. In the Introduction, Farmer discusses the “second silence” of anthropology: of noting and respecting a silence instead of insisting on an answer. He also briefly discusses the tensions of bearing witness: “The boundary between bearing witness and disrespectful (or self-interested) rooting is not always evident, even to those seeking to be discerning. And, to be honest, writing of the plight of the oppressed is not a particularly effective way of assisting them” (Farmer 2005, 26). However, he does give detailed accounts of individuals’ experiences, at times making his book seems like a “museum of suffering.” How does his account of people’s stories contrast with Veena Das’ use of silence and the way she writes about women in India? Which strategy is more successful/effective?
3. How does Galtung’s intended/unintended dimension of violence relate to last week’s discussion of “Ichi’s Brain, Ishi’s Ashes?” Is there a difference between how Farmer uses Chouchou Louis and Acephie Joseph as examples and Koening’s use of Ichi?