That s just how it is submission and victimhood in coping with violence
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“ That's just how it is” Submission and victimhood in coping with violence. Development Studies Association 3 November 2012 Claudia Seymour Department of Development Studies School of Oriental and African Studies University of London [email protected] Overview.

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That s just how it is submission and victimhood in coping with violence

That's just how it is” Submission and victimhood in coping with violence

DevelopmentStudies Association

3 November 2012

Claudia Seymour

Department of DevelopmentStudies

School of Oriental and AfricanStudies

University of London

[email protected]



‘Structures of violence’

Political and structural violence


Resilience and agency

La débrouille



Conserving violence

Structures of violence

Structures of violence

Founding violence (Das 2007)

Resource extraction


Land-identity-citizenshipconflict(Prunier 2009)

Political violence

Mobutu: land wars, contestedcitizenship, violent ‘democratisation’, identity-basedpolitics

1994 genocide in Rwanda

‘Africa’s World War’: 1996- 2003 wars

Continuing violence in the Kivus

CNDP/M23; FDLR; Mayi-mayi/ militia; FARDC

International politicaleconomy of violence

UN, humanitarianactors, ICC, media


Structural violence

Beyond ‘subjective’ violence (Žižek 2009)

‘Chronic, historicallyentrenched, political-economic oppression’ (Bourgois 2001:8)

‘Does not show’ (Galtung 1969: 173) ?

Limits on ‘human self-realisation’ (Galtung 1969)

Generalisedpoverty, lack of access to basic services- health, education…


‘Structures of violence’ (Bourdieu 1977, 1980)

Violence not simply ‘survived’ (Bourgois 2001: 29)

‘Law of conservation of violence’ (Bourdieu 2000)

Resilience and agency

Resilience and agency


Trauma and psychopathology


Explains how people are able to effectively cope with, adapt positively to and thrive within conditions of risk and adversity (Rutter 1999, Masten2001, Ungar 2004, Zraly 2008)

Theoretical limitations


Actingwithin and influencing established social structures and relations, constructing and determining own life outcomes (Bourdieu 1977, Boyden 2000, Arnfred and Utas 2007)

Tactical agency(de Certeau 1984, Marriage 2012)

Finding ‘ways of using the constraining order’ (de Certeau 1984:30)

La d brouille



Making use of and discerning possible opportunities

‘to find a way’ or ‘to use one’sownmeans’

“to live despite it all… We depend on our intelligence- the capacity to know how to exploit our potential, to seize possible opportunities…”

Economic livelihood

Daily labour- fields, mines, portering; sex work; joining armed group

Rational decision-making

Bounded rationality (Simon 1957) ; ‘satisficing’

Short term survival


No engagement in structures of violence




Life-saving in conditions of militarised violence

Self-protection within structures of violence

Defeat and powerlessness

“Inside we are destroyed.... We’re losing our morale. We are unable to defend ourselves. It’s the authorities who have become our enemy... We have realised that power is not ours, that there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves… We have learnt that anytime we try to defend ourselves, we’ll be punished by force.”

“That’s just how it is.”

Acceptance psychologically protective

Perpetuating the structures of violence

“If we try to liberate ourselves or if we aim to be heroes, we’ll just be killed. So it’s better just to suffer”



Weakness as tactic


Traditionally relied on reciprocity, loyalty and protection

Monetization, distrust, poverty

-> inequality, weakness, dependence

Victimcy(Utas 2003)

Presentation of oneself as a victim to access assistance

Symbolic interactionism (Goffman 1959) ; superficial, short term knowledge

Proxy agency (Bandura 2001)

Capacity for discerning differentials in power and resources

International political economy of violence: vulnerability = material assistance


Victim-perpetrator discourses

Threat, fear, competition

Political strategy of obscuring, distracting

Meaning attribution

Psychologically protective explanation for individual lack of advancement


Conserving violence

Conserving violence

Engagingwith structures of violence

coping for short-termoutcomes

submission and victimhoodincreaseweakness and reinforcedefeat:

“How do we look at the future? Life will always be like this. Or worse.”

Policy implications

Reflection on aid’srole in reinforcing structures of violence


Bourdieu, P., 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge University Press: London.

Bourdieu, P., 1989. Social Space and Symbolic Power. Sociological Theory 7 (1): 14- 25.

Bourdieu, P., 2000. Pascalian Meditations. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bourgois, P., 2001. The power of violence in war and peace: Post-Cold War lessons from El Salvador. Ethnography, 2 (1), 5- 34.

de Certeau, M., 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Das, V., 2007. Lifeand Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary.London: University of CaliforniaPress.

Fanon,F., 1963. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.

Galtung, J., 1969. Violence, Peace and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research, 6 (3), 167- 191.

Goffman, E., 1959. Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Marriage, Z., 2012. ‘Tactics!’ Capoeria & Security, weblog post 22 June 2012. Accessible at:

Masten, A., 2001. Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56 (3), 227-238.

Prunier, G., 2009. Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan genocide, and the making of a continental catastrophe. New York: Oxford UniversityPress.

Rutter, M., 1999. Resilience concepts and findings: implications for family therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 21 (2), 119-144.

Scheper-Hughes, N. and Bourgois, P., 2004. “Comments to “An Anthropology of Structural Violence.”” CurrentAnthropology. Volume 45, Number 3: 317- 318.

Ungar, M., 2004. A Constructionist Discourse on Resilience: Multiple Contexts, Multiple Realities Among At-Risk Children and Youth. Youth & Society, 35 (3), 341-365.

Utas, M., 2003. Sweet Battlefields: Youth and the Liberian Civil War. Uppsala University Dissertations in Cultural Anthropology.

Žižek, S., 2009. Violence: Six SidewaysReflections. London: Profile Books Ltd.

Zraly, M. 2008. Bearing: Resilience among genocide-rape survivors in Rwanda. Unpublished PhD Thesis.